President Joe Biden on Wednesday appointed Erika Moritsugu as a senior liaison to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
In an announcement, the White House said Moritsugu will hold the title of deputy assistant to the president and will be “a vital voice to advance the President and the Administration’s priorities.” She will direct the administration’s outreach to Asian Americans, according to The Washington Post.
The senior-level appointment comes after Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) criticized the lack of Asian Americans in senior roles in his administration. Last month, the senators threatened to block Biden’s nominees until he appointed Asian American and Pacific Islanders to top positions. They backed down after getting assurances the White House would do so.
Moritsugu was vice president at the National Partnership for Women and Families, where she focused on economic justice, particularly for women of color. She previously worked in government relations at the Anti-Defamation League and served on the staffs of Sens. Duckworth and Danny Akaka (D-Hawaii), as well as in the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration.
Moritsugu’s appointment comes as racist violence targeting Asian Americans has surged since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. One study found that crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders rose by 150% in major U.S. cities. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of Asian American advocacy groups, recorded an alarming 3,795 reports of racist violence against Asian Americans from early 2020 to early 2021.
The Post reported Biden is scheduled to meet with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus at the White House on Thursday.
The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.