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Asians Eager to Hear of Obama's Supreme Court Choice

Jacqueline Nguyen, left, and Sri Srinivasan.

Jacqueline Nguyen, left, and Sri Srinivasan.

Two immigrants from Asia are possible nominees for the United States Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died February 4 in his sleep. That left a chair open for a new justice. Possible nominees are judges Sri Srinivasan and Jacqueline Nguyen.

Pamela Thakur is a former president of a South Asian Bar Association in California. She said the possible nomination of Srinivasan is “all over every South Asian newspaper.”

She added, “Asians in general are becoming more involved in the political system as judiciary members of the bench, so it really is just a testament of the times for Asians to now be nominated for this open seat that’s available.”

Sri Srinivasan

Born in India, Srinivasan is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. The court is often called the second-most important court in the U.S. Many U.S. Supreme Court nominees have come from this lower court. In 2013, the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment to the court with a 97-0 vote.

Srinivasan was a clerk for Judge Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court. He also argued 25 times before the Supreme Court, representing both Republican and Democratic administrations.

At a ceremony to honor him as India Aboard Person of the Year in 2013, Srinivasan said:

“When we became citizens, we took an oath to support and defend the constitution and laws...What a profound privilege to go from one who took the oath from a judge to one who now is in the position to administer the oath as a judge.”

Jacqueline Nguyen

More than 50 kilometers south of Los Angeles is Little Saigon. The area is also known as the “capital of the Vietnamese refugee community.”

There is excitement there about Jacqueline Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American, as a possible Supreme Court nominee.

Dzung Do is managing editor of the Vietnamese newspaper, Nguoi Viet. He said Vietnamese-Americans who escaped the Communist regime want to see a Vietnamese immigrant on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“They want to have somebody over here achieve something … so they can tell [communists], ‘Hey, we ran away from you, but now we’re successful.’ ” Do said.

Nguyen and her family fled their homeland when the communists took over South Vietnam. As refugees in the U.S., Nguyen first lived in a tent city before settling in Los Angeles.

“My parents were in shock because not only did they have to deal with the loss of their homeland, but also with the prospect of starting all over again, trying to figure out how to provide food and shelter and raise six children in a foreign land. Whenever job opportunities came our way my mom would take it,” said Nguyen in a video produced by United States Courts.

Nguyen is serving as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Bao Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American, said the two Asian-Americans who are possible nominees reflect U.S. society in 2016.

“I think this is a point in America where we value the immigrant experience, we value the diversity of what America is all about cause that’s really our foundation. It’s really the roots of our nation,” said Nguyen.

Elizabeth Lee reported this story for VOA News. Kathleen Struck adapted it. Hai Do was the editor.

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