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On the Rising Electoral Power of AAPI Communities — An Open Letter from our Staff

Happy Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month! Our history here is a legacy of political activism and collective resilience that the #YouthVote is proud to celebrate and carry on.

Generations before us came to America in search of opportunity — many escaping wars and struggling in poverty in their homeland — on the promise of the values and the dream that their children could have a better life than they lived.

For AAPI Heritage Month we reflect on the storied history of our experience and contributions to America’s history. We proudly share the start of AAPI Heritage Month on May 1st, aka International Workers’ Day, with a shout out to Filipino leaders and workers in the Farmworker movement of the 1960s.

We recognize that too many of the current rules in place make the path to a safe and secure middle-class life far more out-of-reach than it was for our parents or grandparents. Our generation has grown up with multiple recessions, endless war, crushing student loan debt, stagnant wages, soaring rent prices, mass deportation, police murders of Black Americans and mass incarceration, rampant school shootings, and politicians who deny the truth and sound science on the need for climate action.

Donald Trump and his Republican enablers have scapegoated, derided, and harmed us — our friends, our family, our community. In his first week in office, Trump signed an executive order for his first Muslim Ban which banned entry for refugees and immigrants from Muslim majority countries including Iran, Kyrgyzstan and much more. The courts have fought to block Trump’s Muslim and refugee bans, but Trump continues to encourage violence and vitriol among his supporters; targeting our South Asian friends and Muslim community members. Anti-Muslim hate groups are unfettered, on the rise, and many of the leading extremists are in the highest positions in Trump’s administration.

Polls in 2018 showed nearly 80% of Americans want protection and legalization for DREAMers, young people brought to the U.S. as minors without documentation. Trump canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that started in 2012. Many federal courts have stepped in to block Trump’s cruelty to DACA-eligible Americans. Any day now, the Supreme Court could issue a statement that allows Trump to take back work permits and deportation relief from 649,000 currently enrolled DACA recipients. Asian and Pacific Islander DACA recipients are often overlooked in the narrative but account for 1.7 million undocumented persons — one out of every 10 undocumented immigrants in America. Nearly 60% of today’s Asian American community were born in another country. Southeast Asian Americans are disproportionately impacted by high rates of employment in low-income jobs, poverty, criminalization and deportation.

Even in the face of the current crisis — instead of using his executive powers to scale up production of personal protection equipment (PPE) and coronavirus tests or getting unemployed and laid off workers the urgent relief they need — Trump has squandered his platform, repeatedly referring to coronavirus as “Chinese virus.” This has been a talking point among other Republican leaders, some fanning the flames of prejudice in their political ads, and has led to an uptick of harassment and violence against Asian Americans since March. 60% of Asian Americans have witnessed blame being placed on Asian people.

Asian Americans are now the fastest-growing population of any major racial or ethnic group, growing 72% between 2000 and 2015 from 11.9 million to 20.4 million. We are every part of the fabric of this country from the farmworkers growing the food we eat to technologists helping us connect virtually to the artists entertaining us and the healthcare professionals and grocery store workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis.

The AAPI electorate is projected to double from 5.9 million eligible voters in 2015 to 12.2 million in 2040. Our eligible voting population grew to 5% or more in 8 states, 104 counties, and 108 congressional districts in the 2018 elections, and this number is growing at a rate of 750,000 new eligible voters every four years.

AAPI voter support for the Democratic party has grown, with 77% of AAPI voters supporting a Democratic House candidate in the 2018 midterm elections. We saw a 14-point boost in Asian American voter turnout from 2014 to 2018. We hit an all-time record high of representation with twenty AAPI elected officials currently in Congress.

A recent survey by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee found that “AAPI voters in battleground districts favor the Democratic candidate by 33 points on the generic ballot.” Findings in this survey list health care as one of the top concerns of AAPI voters and 56% of AAPI voters trust Democrats (compared to 24% for the GOP) on the issue. Democrats were also more trustworthy on immigration and gun control.

Yet AAPI voters are missed in voter contact efforts by both parties. In a 2018 survey conducted to AAPI voters, half reported no contact or were unsure if they received contact from the Democratic party, and 60% reported the same of the GOP. This survey also noted that over a third of AAPI voters contacted did not declare identification with either political party. Leading experts and community leaders in key geographies like Nevada have noted a lag in meaningful AAPI voter engagement from political campaigns.

We have the power to take back the reins and move this country forward towards the ideals and values that brought our ancestors here — to make life better for generations to come. As AAPI-identifying NextGen America staff, alumni, and volunteers we do not take this responsibility lightly.

Join us in our efforts to take the future into our hands in making sure our community is informed, prepared, and able to register to vote and cast their ballots safely this November.

Signed,

Olivia Chow, she/her
Marvin Nim, he/him
Shehn Datta, she/her
Julian Chen Snow, he/him
Lilly Tague-Bleau, she/her
Shilpa Dutta, she/her
Matt Brooks, he/him
John Lee Brougher, he/him
Russ Fagaly, he/him
Chris Chartchaiganan, he/him
Anastasia Macaraeg, she/her
Ricky Pinela, he/him
Alison Ge, she/her
Kimi Meyer, she/her
Kristie Wu, she/hers
Nella Ocampo, she/her
Casey Lee, she/her
Hunter Blas, she/her
Megan Badilla, she/her
Jonathan Maulino, he/him
Gavin D. Li, he/him
Naaz Tung, she/her
Samantha Couch, she/her
Marisa E., she/her
Jessica Lo she/her
Chelsea Buyco, she / her
Sedona Lynch, she/her
Tia Yap, she/her

Paid for by NextGen Climate Action Committee, http://nextgenamerica.org, not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Mobilizing the #YouthVote across 11 states. Visit us at nextgenamerica.org to learn how you can join the fight.

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