Chicago businesswoman Smita Shah advising Biden on AANHPI policies

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Last week, Smita Shah was at the White House celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

She currently serves on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. She learned of the appointment last December.

"He was talking about the work that Asian Americans are doing and the contributions that Asian Americans make," Shah said. "I was very excited."

The commission was established by an executive order by President Biden last May to advise the President on policies involving the AANHPI communities.

Twenty-five people from across the country serve on the commission. Shah is the only member from Chicago.

She said commissioners are focusing on six topics, including anti-discrimination, health equity and immigration reform.

"Immigration and citizenship status is always an ongoing issue, especially with the backlogs and immigration," Shah said. "Many Asians come here both for studying as well as to stay here and raise their families and contribute to society."

According to census data, there are 24 million people of Asian descent in the U.S. and 1.6 million people who identity as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander. Shah said representation matters.

"This is what makes America so strong," Shah said, "to bring people to the table and to have their viewpoints and to have everyone engaged."

The daughter of Indian immigrants is proud to give back to a country that has afforded her so many opportunities.

Shah was a White House intern during the Clinton Administration. She is the founder and CEO of an engineering and construction firm. Shah also serves on the boards for many businesses and organizations.

"I try my best to do the best I can, because I think if we can all do great and contribute and make a difference, then our society will be amazing," she said.
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