The Asian-American dream and the Republican Party

Posted on September 1, 2012


Republican Party’s Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan

Senator Rand Paul in his speech to the Republican National Convention Wednesday night highlighted the personal stories of Southeast Asian immigrants, including the Taing family from Cambodia and Vietnamese brothers Hung and Thuan Trinh, who risked their lives to sail to America on a boat from Vietnam. He told us about the risk they took to flee their war-torn countries – a risk often unimaginable to many of us born in the United States – to find freedom, peace and opportunity in the country we call home.

As a second-generation Vietnamese-American, I was proud and encouraged to see Republicans not only praising immigrants who worked hard to build their own success, but calling attention to the often politically-overlooked group of Americans who so embody the American dream and are increasingly important to the future of our country.

Some interesting facts to consider: Asians recently surpassed Hispanics to become the largest group of immigrants to the United States, with Asians approaching 40 percent of immigrants in 2009 while immigrants of Hispanic origin were just over 30 percent. To add to that, the number of Asian-Americans running for Congress this year has more than tripled since 2008.

Republicans take note: As the Asian-American population continues to grow and become more and more politically engaged we have a huge opportunity – and a huge responsibility – to include Asian-Americans into our party that promotes and defends our shared values of family, small business ownership, and freedom from big government.

According to a Pew Research Center study released in June of this year, Asian-Americans place a particularly strong emphasis on family, with 54 percent naming it “one of the most important things in life” compared to 34 percent of all American adults. When it comes to the idea of hard work, Pew reports that 69 percent of Asian-Americans believe “people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard,” whereas only 58 percent of all Americans agree.

Most importantly from a values perspective, many Asian-Americans, particularly political refugees, understand the core values that define American exceptionalism. That America is founded on the truth that our rights come from our creator, not from any government, dictator or king.

My mother, who fled Vietnam as Saigon fell in April 1975, knows what it’s like when government oversteps its boundaries and freedom no longer exists. She knows what it’s like to have to choose to leave your own country, and to choose risking your own life, in the mere hope of finding freedom elsewhere. And she knows that America is the last place on earth for people in the world to run when staying in their own country is no longer an option.

Republicans and conservatives, who have taken the lead in defending America from the increasingly big-government policies of the left, must include Asian-Americans in our effort to preserve our shared belief in American exceptionalism.

From a pragmatic perspective, there are a few important statistics for Republicans leaders to know:

1. The population of Asian-Americans grew 46 percent over the last decade – at a rate higher than any other race, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. As the make-up of the United States continues to change in the years and decades to come, Asian-Americans will become an increasingly large percentage of the voting population, looking for political leaders who will best represent their values. It’s up to Republicans to include Asian-Americans into our party – as voters and as elected officials – starting today.

2. The number of American businesses owned by people of Asian origin grew more than 40 percent between 2002 and 2007, reaching 1.5 millionand increasing at more than twice the national rate, according to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners: Asian-Owned Businesses. These businesses employed nearly three million people in the United States. President Obama this year has made the choice quite clear. By insulting every American small business owner with his now-infamous “You didn’t build that” remarks, the president has thrown the door wide-open for Republicans, as defenders and promoters of small business, to reach out to and engage Asian-American business owners.

3. Thirty Asian-Americans ran for Congress in 2012, which more than tripled the number of Asian-American candidates of 2008, according to the Asian Pacific Institute for Congressional Studies. Twenty-five of these candidates ran as Democrats. To put it simply, Democrats have done a far better job reaching out to Asian-Americans. The GOP must make a concerted effort to include them in the Republican Party if we want to be a national majority for generations to come.

In the past decade there have been several promising signs that conservatives are awakening to the importance of Asian-Americans – not only to the Republican Party but to the future of America. For example, in 2001 U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao became the first Chinese-American to serve in the Cabinet under President George W. Bush, and Republican Joseph Cao was the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress in 2009.

But it can’t stop here. The Asian-American community will continue to grow and become more politically active each year. Republicans have the opportunity to engage citizens like the Taing family and Hung and Thuan Trinh, if we are to truly represent all the people and all the values which make America exceptional.

Fox News

Diverse GOP Voices Emphasize Immigrant Contributions

Even as the Republican National Committee adopted a platform advocating strict immigration enforcement, several influential party leaders are pushing for more openness. The Texas Republican Party managed to slip a new guest worker program into the platform, and party leaders from Tea Party Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized the important contributions immigrants make to American society.

Thanks to the Texas GOP delegates, the Republican platform now calls for “a legal and reliable source of foreign labor where needed through a new guest worker program.” Secretary Rice pushed the party further. “We must continue to welcome the world’s most ambitious people to be a part of us,” she said. “More than at any other time in history—the ability to mobilize the creativity and ambition of human beings forms the foundation of greatness… People have come here from all over because they believed in our creed – of opportunity and limitless horizons.”

Sen. Paul repeatedly emphasized much the same view. “In Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Taing family owns the Great American Donut shop. Their family fled war-torn Cambodia to come to this country,” he said. “The Taings work long hours. Mrs. Taing told us that the family works through the night to make doughnuts. The Taing children have become valedictorians and National Merit Scholars. The Taings from Cambodia are an American success story.” Later, the senator referred to his own great-grandfather’s immigration to the U.S. and to a pair of Vietnamese brothers who now own and manage large businesses.

The senator concluded with a letter from an American sailor, John Mooney, who picked up 65 Vietnamese refugees in 1982. “As they approached the ship, they were all waving and trying as best they could say, ‘Hello America sailor! Hello Freedom man!’ ” recounted Mooney. “It really makes one proud and glad to be an American. It reminds us all of what America has always been—a place a man or woman can come for freedom.”

Unfortunately, the sailor’s comment goes too far. For many years, America was a place where anyone could come for freedom, but today, most people who want to come and participate in America’s freedom cannot. Since 1924, at great cost to American society, only those with family connections or those willing to wait many years at great financial cost may enter. Today, the freedom of association and contract that made America such a desirable place to build and grow a business is limited to those born within its boundaries.

America’s traditional openness was replaced with isolationism and protectionism advocated by radical environmentalists like Sierra Club founder John Muir and big union bosses like the American Federation of Labor’s William Green. Their arguments reformulated by today’s radical environmentalists and population control advocates like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, NumbersUSA, and Center for Immigration Studies have no more validity, morality, or economic sense than they did 90 years ago. They’re just the repackaged arguments of decades-old progressives.

“Let me tell you who we conservatives are—we love people,” Rush Limbaugh told Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) attendees in 2009. “When we see a group of people,” he continued, “we see human beings—what we see is potential…. We believe [any] person can be the best he or she wants to be if certain things are just removed from their path like onerous taxes, regulations and too much government.” Conservatives are beginning to recognize that this pro-life message applies as much to immigrants as it does to native-born Americans: regardless of your place of birth, you are valuable.

David Bier

Immigration Reform Missing at GOP Convention

Editor’s Note: As the Republication National Convention concludes, ethnic media journalists and commentators weigh in on what they were tracking during the confab. Some were on the ground in Tampa, FL, and share their observations of the gathering. Many noted that one key issue of concern across ethnic groups – immigration – was hardly mentioned.

Edwin Buggage, Louisiana Data News Weekly, New Orleans, LA 

In Tampa for the Republican National Convention, what I see downtown is not a reflection of America in the 21st century. Rather, it seems more like a throwback to 1950s TV America.

It is unfortunate that this [presidential] race has devolved into something equivalent to turning back the hands of time; a sort of collective nostalgia for, and selective amnesia of, “The Good Old Days”; a time when minorities and women were on the margins, or non-existent, in the mainstream of American society.

It is unfortunate and sad that following the last election cycle, four years ago, when the air was filled with hope and optimism, many in the GOP are now trekking down the road of negativity and cynicism, propagating outright lies to win this election.

I would hope that forward thinking Americans will galvanize their forces once again in November to show that we can embrace the diversity that reflects what this country really is in the 21st century. We must continue down the road we have paved, a more expansive path that allows all to participate in our democracy, and engage in a constructive discourse that can move our country forward.

Hao-Nhien Vu, editor of, a blog focused on the Vietnamese-American community 

I think of party conventions as basically a pep rally, so I don’t expect too much substantive discussions. So I fall back on watching the personalities. Who’s included, who’s not included. I found it extremely interesting that the RNC couldn’t arrive at some compromise with Ron Paul to have him speak at the convention.

For all the Republicans’ efforts and calls to repeal Obamacare, I haven’t heard too much about it at the convention and certainly not any suggestion on what they would do to replace it, as their solution for the health insurance problems. [During his speech accepting his party’s nomination, Gov. Mitt Romney said he would repeal Pres. Obama’s healthcare reform law if elected.]

Of all the issues that can be addressed at the Republican convention, I don’t think there are any particular issues that are more or less important to the Vietnamese-American community than to the country at large. The latest numbers show that Vietnamese-Americans’ party registration are about equal between Republicans and Democrats, so there is a bit of harsh partisanship, but not any worse than for all Americans as a whole.

I said “issues that can be addressed at the Republican convention,” because there is one overwhelming issue of concern to Vietnamese-Americans, and that is the communist dictatorship in Vietnam. That, however, is not an issue that the Republicans talk about, or even pay attention to.

Don Tagala, video journalist for the national daily newscast, “Balitang America [News in America]” of The Filipino Channel

I have spoken so far with two Filipino-American delegates at the convention [who are] both from California.

The first is a business owner. He says he strongly believes in the party’s stance of small government…that is, less governmental control and less regulation. He personally believes this is beneficial to the [Filipino] community and the American people, in general, especially as he is an entrepreneur and he doesn’t want to pay higher taxes.

The second is a younger delegate from Los Angeles who told me that given the significant number of undocumented Filipinos, including DREAMers, he believes Romney and the Republican Party will create an immigration reform law that will be fair for everybody. That Romney will come up with a constitutionally-aligned solution.

Republican party leaders and members are strikingly vague in discussing specific immigration policies that Romney might implement if he is elected as president. When I ask Filipino Republicans at the convention about what will happen to the 12 million undocumented workers in the United States, they don’t provide any specific answers.

Antoine Faisal, publisher of Aramica Newspaper, Brooklyn, NY 

There’s nothing in what they are doing at RNC that I am interested in. Their statements aren’t ones I would agree [with]…As someone who works in the media, I should be [watching the coverage], but I’m not following it closely.

There seems to be a general opinion among…the readers of my newspaper who I talk to that there aren’t that many things we are hopeful for at this time. I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but the Obama administration was a disappointment and Romeny won’t be any better. [Under Obama, there were] lots of empty promises and disappointments. There isn’t much in the Republican agenda that Arab Americans would subscribe to. At the same time, the Democrats haven’t done a good job either. So, you’re in limbo so far…there’s some sense of discontentment with both.

We are disappointed with Obama’s policies on immigration, the Middle East and the economy — many of the same things that we would hear from Americans, just more focused on Arab American issues. When he [Obama] was running for president, in part of his speeches about immigration reform, he said he would pass humanitarian immigration reform, but nothing has been done so far. We have seen things under the Obama administration that we didn’t see under Bush…such as the assassinations in some parts of Afghanistan.

Juan Esparza Loera, editor of Vida en el Valle, Fresno, Calif.

Our readers here in the San Joaquin Valley — when we talk about the San Joaquin Valley, we talk about farmworkers and undocumented immigrants — they have fought for AgJobs and deferred action. Education, jobs, economic development are huge. But what they’re looking for beyond that is immigration. That’s what people sort of miss [in the Republican National Convention].

They know Kris Kobach helped draft the immigration portion of the Republican platform. Next to Pete Wilson [the former California governor who won a second term in 1994 as the chief backer of Proposition 187, the ballot measure designed to deny undocumented immigrants access to most public services], I think Kris Kobach is really the bogeyman in terms of the Latino community.

The Republican Party says they are against any form of amnesty. How do you tell that to the 1.7 million people who were brought over through no fault of their own? They want to contribute to society.

Another part of the GOP platform supports state efforts to reduce illegal immigration. Those are efforts that the Latino community does not care for.

That’s something that [New Mexico Governor] Susana Martinez [can’t address]. She struck down efforts to make driver’s licenses available [for undocumented immigrants]. Having a person of color is not enough to make gains in a community where Republicans have failed.

I think the best speaker they have for the Latino community is Jeb Bush — he is speaking tonight (Aug. 30). He understands Latino issues a lot better than anyone else in the Republican Party. He has come out against Republicans who criticized deferred action; he’s asking for Republicans to tone down the rhetoric.

NAM’s Elena Shore, Ngoc Nguyen, Andrew Lam, and Odette Keeley contributed reporting.

Posted in: Politics