Asian Americans push for greater political clout in Illinois, nationally

Asian Americans push for greater political clout in Illinois, nationally
Image courtesy of the Asian American Institute

It's high time the Asian American community had a stronger political voice, locally and nationally, said a number of advocates working to make the group more politically significant this election cycle.

During a news conference call early this week, a national pollster and several activists discussed the results of national and statewide polls that indicate Asian Americans have a strong interest in voting in November, but have been largely neglected by both major parties, which might have deterred larger turnouts in past elections.

Seventy-eight percent of Asian American voters in Illinois said they would almost certainly be voting in the November election, according to a poll of 130 statewide voters--part of survey of more than 1,000 voters nationally.

But 50 percent of the interviewees said they had never been contacted by Democrats running for office, while 63 percent claimed no Republican candidates had ever contacted them.

"The Republicans have really fallen short, but the Democrats have, too," said David Mermin, a pollster from Lake Research Partners, the firm that conducted the surveys.

Nonetheless, the state and national polls show that Asian Americans prefer Democrats over Republicans, and view President Barack Obama more favorably than his presumed Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

"The current [presidential] polls show that our next president will be determined by the slimmest margin of votes," said Mee Moua, president of the Washington D.C. based Asian American Justice Center. "I call upon our leaders to take note of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community; this untapped community can make the difference for a candidate that wants to head to Washington."

She also warned the candidates and parties that don't step up their outreach efforts: "Those who ignore us do so at their own peril; Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority in the U.S."

Tuyet Le, executive director of the Asian American Institute, in Uptown, said that Asian American voters will play a significant role in three Illinois congressional races: in the 8th, 9th, and 10th districts, in Chicago's north suburbs.

Each saw significant increases in the Asian American populations after the 2010 remapping.

Nationwide, the population of Asian Americans rose 45.6 percent between the 2000 and 2010 Censuses, the largest increase of any racial group.

But it remains to be seen what type of political impact Asian Americans will have nationally in November, seeing as how three in 10 Asian American adults are not citizens and, thus, can't vote, according to a CBS News report on 2010 Census data.

Nonetheless the community is also the fastest growing group in both Illinois and Chicago.

Le told The Chicago Reporter that in Illinois some state lawmakers are finally starting to pay closer attention to the growing ranks of Asian Americans in their districts.

At the organization's request, about 10 state legislators--all of whom saw the Asian American populations in their districts balloon after redistricting--agreed to form an Asian American Caucus, which is supposed to be a voice for the community in the statehouse.

Le said the community is concerned with immigration issues, preventing discriminatory voter ID laws, and boosting the number of Asian Americans in state jobs and elected offices--currently there are no Asian Americans in Springfield. Le said the group wants greater representation so members of this diverse community don't have difficulty accessing basic services.

Forty-fourth District state Rep. Fred Crespo, whose Streamwood district has a large Indian American population, is part of the forthcoming caucus--it will hold its first meeting next week, he said.

He listed some of the caucus' objectives: "We need to be more inclusive, to do more outreach. We need to also look at employment in government. When you look at the percentage of Asian Americans in state jobs, the numbers are abysmal. We need to work on that. We do that with Black and Latino Caucuses. We also need to promote and get more Asian Americans involved in voting and running for office."

"We want culturally competent services provided to our communities," Le said.

© Community Renewal Society 2012

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