Less than three months away from the 2016 presidential election, candidates from major and independent political parties addressed Asian-Americans, the fastest growing immigrant population in the country, at a presidential forum in Las Vegas on Aug. 12.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes spoke on behalf of Republican Party. Born to a half-Filipino and half-Spanish immigrant father and a mother of Hawaiian and Japanese origins, Reyes said he might not look like a typical Donald Trump supporter.
He said he even had difficulty getting through the security to get on stage.
“I think they just thought I was another attendee who was lost or someone trying to sneak up on the stage to ask another question,” he said.
But Reyes added, “The fact that [the Trump Campaign] would allow an average person like me to be able to speak to a group as important as you” was one of the reasons he started to support Trump.
The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote) held the forum and welcomed more than 3,000 people, including journalists, business owners and local residents, to voice their concerns on immigration policy.
Independent party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein and former president Bill Clinton spoke before Reyes. Some presented immigration policies to welcome workers from Asian countries.
There are more than 17 million Asian immigrants in the United States, which comprises 5.6 percent of the U.S. population as of 2010. This best-educated racial group is more likely to come to the United States with employment visas, according to a Pew Research Center report on Asian-Americans, despite a 65,000 cap on general H-1B work visa, which is needed for educated immigrants to get into the country.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson said he would expand the number of work visas.
“The system is broken,” Johnson said. “We should make it as easy as possible for someone who wants to come into this country and work to be able to get a work visa.”
Reyes said Trump promotes legal immigration but will prioritize American workers.
“He will always put American workers, including Asian Pacific American workers, first,” Reyes said.
Meanwhile, Green Party candidate Jill Stein said she supports a welcoming path to citizenship and denounced deportations.
“We call for an end, an immediate end, to deportations, detentions and night raids,” Stein said, “which is a national scandal.”
Genie Nguyen, president of Voice of Vietnamese Americans, said after the forum that she was happy to see all four parties represented in the forum and willing to speak to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“They all seemed to be aware that our votes can make a difference,” Nguyen said. “I think they all know that the AAPI votes are very important in this election.”