Progressive Profiles: Minnesota’s AAPI Trailblazers
Welcome to progressive profiles, a series introducing Minnesota’s trailblazing progressive legislators.
This month, we’re celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and highlighting our AAPI leaders and their important work at the capitol.
Since 1979, Minnesota has welcomed more than 109,000 refugees directly, and many others have moved to Minnesota from other states. As a result, St. Paul has the largest Hmong community in the United States. Refugees and immigrants are a vital part of the Minnesota community. Multiple AAPI legislators are intimately familiar with the refugee experience and are representing their communities in the Minnesota Legislature during this session.
Progressive AAPI leaders at the Capitol are part of the Minnesota Asian and Pacific Caucus (MAP), a group dedicated to building equitable policies that serve Minnesota’s diverse AAPI communities. This year they introduced crucial legislation, including efforts to stop hate crimes, fund English learner programs, and invest in ethnic studies courses for Minnesota public schools.
Ethan Cha, House District 47B (Woodbury)
The chair of the MAP Caucus is Ethan Cha from Woodbury, Minnesota. Born in a Thai refugee camp, Representative Cha came to Minnesota as a child. After many years of hard work, Ethan is now a small business owner, father of two, and a grassroots organizer in Woodbury.
Liz Lee, House District 67A (Saint Paul Eastside)
Kaozouapa Lee, or Liz Lee, was born in Saint Paul after her family migrated from the refugee camps of Thailand after the civil war in Laos displaced her family. From delivering papers as a teenager on the Eastside of Saint Paul to Yale University, Representative Lee has an impressive record of advocating for communities of color and securing meaningful results.
Kaohly Her, House District 64A (Saint Paul)
Representative Her came to the U.S. with her family as refugees when she was four years old. Now, she is a leader in her Saint Paul community and advocates for affordable housing, economic justice, public education, and the environment. And she led the way for a historic increase in funding for Minnesota’s English-learning programs.
Susan Pha, Senate District 38 (Brooklyn Park)
The MAP Caucus vice chair, Susan Pha, has always been a trailblazer. She was the first person of color to serve on the Brooklyn Park City Council and now serves in the Minnesota Senate. She immigrated to the U.S. as a 3-year-old refugee. Her work prioritizes investing in transportation and affordable housing, and building economic opportunity for her community.
Jay Xiong House District 67B (Saint Paul)
A veteran of the Minnesota House, Representative Xiong is serving his third term in office. During his time, he has been a dedicated leader fighting for health care, transit, community safety, and education.
Fue Lee, House District 59A (North Minneapolis)
Representative Lee is serving his second term in office after an exciting 2021 session despite many roadblocks by conservatives in the Senate. During his first term, he fought for funding for college readiness programs, zero-emissions transit, clean energy jobs, and more.
Foung Hawj, Senate District 67 (Saint Paul Eastside)
Senator Hawj has been serving Minnesotans in the legislature since 2013. In addition to serving as a member of the Jobs and Economic Development Committee and the Transportation Committee, Senator Hawj is also the Chair of the Committee on Environment, Climate, and Legacy. No doubt, Senator Hawj’s leadership has been influential in passing many of the legislative victories of the session.
Tou Xiong, Senate District 44 (North Saint Paul)
Senator Xiong is the second child of eight siblings, born to refugees from Laos. He served on the Maplewood City Council in 2014 before his election to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2018. He now serves in the Senate as Vice Chair for the Energy, Utilities, Environment, and Climate Committee.
Many thanks to our AAPI leaders
We’re grateful to have such inspiring, hardworking, and trailblazing leaders representing us at the Minnesota Capitol. Thank you for all you do!
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