Anh “Joseph” Cao felt uneasy when his Republican colleagues made comments about immigrants.
Cao was a Republican congressman from 2009 to 2011 in a Democratic district of Louisiana. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1975 from Vietnam when he was a child. He says he sometimes heard comments from his Republican colleagues that he considered anti-immigrant and insensitive.
“It’s been six years so I don’t really remember the specifics,” Cao said. “But I just remember thinking that some members were being insensitive, not recognizing that there was an immigrant – me -- in the room with them.”
Cao, the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress, said he continues to hear comments about “too many immigrants” from some Republican candidates.
Meanwhile, Democrats are picking up a larger share of Asian-American voters. It is because of the anti-immigrant talk from Republican politicians and Republican opposition to immigration law changes, says Cao and other Asian-American leaders.
In 2012, Asian-Americans gave 73 percent of their votes to Democratic President Barack Obama, according to the National Election Poll.
That’s more than twice the percentage Democratic President Bill Clinton received in 1992.
Cao, a lawyer, came to the United States in 1975. He and his brother fled Vietnam after the Communists won the Vietnam War.
Older Vietnamese tend to favor the Republican Party because it is seen as more anti-Communist than Democrats, he says. Cao said he also favored Republican views on limited government.
But Cao, 48, said younger Vietnamese are trending more Democratic.
Comments by Republicans that sound anti-immigrant turn younger voters toward Democrats, he said.
Joseph Choe, 20, a Harvard University student, recently questioned Republican Donald Trump during a New Hampshire meeting.
“Are you from South Korea?" Trump asked.
Choe replied that he was born in Texas and raised in Colorado.
And Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee tweeted this about Democrat Bernie Sanders:
“I trust @BernieSanders with my tax dollars like I trust a North Korean chef with my Labrador!," he tweeted.
Those comments tell Asian-American voters that Republicans don’t care about them, said S.B. Woo, the former lieutenant governor of Delaware.
Woo is a physicist who founded the 80-20 National Asian American Political Action Committee.
His group works to turn out 80 percent of the Asian-Americans' vote for the group’s endorsed candidate.
Woo said the trend toward Asian-American Democratic support is continuing in the 2016 presidential race.
But he said Democrats should not take Asian-American support for granted. Frustrations over college admission practices could lead to more Asian-Americans voting Republican, Woo said.
Many Asian-Americans believe some elite universities limit the percentage of Asian-American students, Woo said.
On this issue, the politics favor Republicans, Woo said. Democrats are seen as more supportive than Republicans of affirmative action policies, he said.
Such policies are designed to ensure all races and ethnic groups are represented in student bodies.
Asian-American students are high achievers, Woo said. Efforts to equalize ethnic and racial representation at colleges mean worthy Asian-American students are denied admission.
Harvard University and other Ivy League schools deny their admission policies discriminate against Asian-American applicants.
“In fact, within its holistic admissions process, and as part of its effort to build a diverse class, Harvard College has demonstrated a strong record of recruiting and admitting Asian-American students,” said Robert Juliano, Harvard University’s general counsel. He said Asian-Americans make up 21 percent of Harvard undergraduates.
Another factor that could reverse the trend of Asian-American support for Democrats is income. Higher income voters tend to support Republican candidates who tend to favor lower taxes.
And the median income for Asian-American households in 2009 was $65,469, compared to $51,863 for white households, and $38,039 for Hispanic households, according to Census Bureau statistics.
The importance of the Asian vote is increasing.
The Asian-American population is expected to more than double, from 15.9 million in 2012 to 34.4 million in 2060, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Asian-American share of the U.S. population is expected to increase from 5.1 percent to 8.1 percent during that period.
The Pew Research Center broke down the Asian-American population from the 2010 census this way: 4 million from China; 3.4 million from the Philippines; 3.2 million from India; 1.74 million from Vietnam; 1.7 million from Korea; 1.3 million from Japan; 409,000 from Pakistan; and 277,000 from Cambodia.
Words in This Story
insensitive – adj. showing that you do not know or care about the feelings of other people
incumbent – n. a person who holds a particular office or position
advantage – n. something (such as a good position or condition) that helps to make someone or something better or more likely to succeed than others
holistic – adj. relating to or concerned with complete systems rather than with individual parts
diverse – adj. different from each other
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