National Ethnic Leaders in the White House

Dear Coalition Members,

Summer is nearly gone and I wanted to update you all on a few activities. Having recently just returned from several weeks of vacation, "outside the beltway" of Washington DC's hot, muggy weather and political dysfunction, I was thrown back into, "the mix" last week at the White House. This meeting was also about ethnic immigration, Polish Visa Waiver, and overall immigration reform, which the Coalition supports.

Below is a snapshot of part of my afternoon last Thursday, August 11th.

Our meeting was in the Roosevelt Room, with the President's Chief of Staff, Bill Daley (who dropped-in) and Ms. Cecilia Munoz, the Deputy Director for Domestic Policy, and other Senior Staff, along with myself and 12 national ethnic leaders. The genesis of this meeting was hatched with Jim Zogby, one of my fellow Co-Chairs on the National Ethnic Coordinating Committee in early May, when I had met the President's Chief of Staff at a dinner hosted by Mr. Zogby, where Indiana Governor, Mitch Daniels (R) was being honored.    We began talking about the convergence of ethnic politics, job creation (and lack there of) in specific States, with unfortunately high rates of unemployment. In addition, many of us once again expressed our unified support for Poland's expansion into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

At the August 11 meeting, the Coalition (HAC) requested the Administration's leadership, not only for current legislation pending in Congress, but from the President and his surrogates personally. Not only did Barbara Anderson of the Polish American Congress (PAC) express her desire for the President's leadership, but also leaders from the Italian American, Irish American, Arab American and Macedonian American communities all requested support.

The important part of this meeting was that Mr. Daley understood that many communities in our country, feel disconnected from our leaders at the National and State level, and also feel that this has had an impact on the Administration's Foreign Policy in CEE (or at the very least a poor perception of US-CEE policies).  In my opinion, this relates directly to the perceptions of the US,  "Reset with Russia" and new "Missile Defense Policies."

Given the constant news during Hungary's EU presidency, I want to share with you what HAC has been actively doing.

All of this has lead to follow up meetings at higher levels at the National Security Council (NSC). On the heels of Secretary of State Clinton's successful visit to Budapest in late June, we have scheduled meetings which will include, Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) of State for Democracy and Labor, Thomas O. Melia, Pamela Quanrud, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State,  Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Marie (Masha) Yovanovitch, and Senior Advisor, Tomicah Tillemann.  We are meeting regarding a series of subjects relating to US policies in Central Europe and Russia.

As you all are aware, on July 27th there were hearings held by the House Foreign Affairs, Sub Committee on Europe/Eurasian Affairs.  The Hungarian Human Rights Foundation submitted an excellent report on the situation of Hungarian minorities in East Central Europe.  During these hearings, Hungary was singled-out by DAS Thomas Melia, who was critical of Hungarian domestic and regional policies. As a result, we have a great need to continue to engage our friends in Congress and the Administration, expressing both some concerns and also support when possible. 

As I've stated to friends and colleagues for years, regardless of Administration and election cycles, we have our work cut-out for us, but I also often say, "What else is new!"  For the past seven years I have experienced one constant challenge: to get the White House and Congress to consistently focus on Central and Eastern Europe, but most importantly, to do so in an effective manner. This is how we can make a difference, but it is never easy and it is never ending.

Maximilian N. Teleki

The White House blog posted about the August 11 meeting:

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