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Eni uses Samoan proverb to address immigration reform in D.C.

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A.S. CONGRESSMAN: “E lē falala fua le niu”

(Washington D.C.)—Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin represented American Samoa and the nation’s Pacific Islanders when he spoke to members of Congress and hundreds of community leaders of Asian and Pacific descent at a meeting in Washington D.C. last week.

In addition to a Chinese proverb, Faleomavaega also used a Samoan proverb to address immigration reform at the gathering, according to a press statement issued by the congressman’s office.

Last week’s meeting, the Annual Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Ceremony was held Wednesday, May 8, at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Faleomavaega, members of the CAPAC and House democratic leadership, celebrated Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month and offered remarks to an audience of over 400 APA community leaders at the Annual CAPAC Ceremony.

Also in attendance were Hawai’i U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Hawai’i U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and CAPAC Vice Chair Guam Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo.

A ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Faleomavaega opened his remarks with Chinese and Samoan proverbs.

Sharing the Chinese adage, he said: “Drinking the water of a well, one should never forget who dug it,” in reference to those who paved the way for the Asian-Pacific American voice to be heard in the recent immigration debate.

The congressman also shared the Samoan proverb “E lē falala fua le niu” or “The coconut tree doesn't sway on its own,” reiterating that nothing happens without a reason.

This year’s theme for CAPAC is “A Path Forward on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.” CAPAC Chairwoman U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) offered opening remarks on the importance of immigration reform, followed by remarks by CAPAC’s Immigration Taskforce co-Chairs, U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and Faleomavaega.

The keynote speech was offered by Jose Antonio Vargas, an immigration activist, filmmaker, journalist, and undocumented immigrant.

Faleomavaega commended the many groups and individuals behind the scenes whose efforts have “created significant progress in national awareness of the needs of Asian-Pacific Americans.”

He highlighted the increasing significance of the Asian-Pacific region in U.S. Foreign Policy and called on leaders in the room to continue to fight so that Asian-Pacific Americans are never marginalized or dismissed.

Some CAPAC members are of Asian American or Pacific Islander descent or represent districts with large populations of Asian-Pacific Americans, explained Faleomavaega.

President Barack Obama, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center launched APA Month May 1, 2013.

“I thank President Barack Obama, CAPAC colleagues, and Democratic leadership in Congress for their efforts on behalf of Asian-Pacific Americans across the United States, and I also thank our and Pacific Islander leaders who took part in our APA Heritage Month events in the Nation’s Capital,” Faleomavaega stated. “The beauty of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is that no other community in the United States more accurately represents America’s diversity than the more than 18 million Americans who make up the APA community.”

He says because we are a community of immigrants, “no matter what generation, our story is an integral part of the greater American story.”

“And as CAPAC’s Immigration co-Chair, along with my good friend Congressman Mike Honda, I am pleased to know that our voice is being heard. The Senate bill introduced just last month is the first of many steps that we must take to address the failures of our current immigration system for all who hope to also take part in the American story,” said Faleomavaega. “While there is more work ahead, we commend the bi-partisan effort to bring one of the most progressive and comprehensive reforms to our immigration system. As we move ahead as a community, I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure momentum on this hallmark reform effort.”

Honda, CAPAC Chair Emeritus, previously served as chair of CAPAC while Faleomavaega, a member of CAPAC’s Executive Board, previously served as CAPAC vice-chair.

Founded in 1994, CAPAC is comprised of members of Congress who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian-Pacific American community, Faleomavaega explained.

American Samoa’s congressman thanked “all those who came before us, our community leaders and advocates, and especially our APAs serving throughout the world in the U.S. Armed Forces.”

“I wish everyone much enjoyment in their festivities as we celebrate Asian-Pacific Heritage Month in the spirit of unity,” Faleomavaega said.

To learn more about U.S. immigration and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, see our POLITICS and IMMIGRATION sections.

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