by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
LAS VEGAS, NV. — US Congressional Democratic leaders held a rally for the Asian Pacific Islander American Community (APIA) of Las Vegas to participate in the upcoming Nevada Caucus scheduled on Jan. 19.
The rally took place at the Chinatown Plaza on the eve of the final presidential Democratic debate. More than 200 members of the APIA community filled the large hall as volunteers from the various Democratic presidential campaigns passed out flyers and stickers from their booths.
Nevada becomes the second State in the nation to hold a presidential caucus and the first in the West to host an early nominating process.
The Democrats found that the growing number of Asian Americans residing in Nevada and the US has become a critical untapped resource of voters that could be key to choosing the next President of the United States.
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) said that Nevada was selected as an early caucus State because of its great diversity, which includes a thriving APIA community.
“The Democratic party seeks diversity,” said Reid. “The State of Nevada represents our country. [The previous presidential caucuses in] Iowa has a little diversity, New Hampshire has no diversity.”
In the last eight years, the APIA community has doubled in size in the Las Vegas metropolitan area from four percent to eight percent, according to the Nevada State Democratic Party. FilAms reflect the highest number of Asian Americans in the Las Vegas area.
Their study also found that members of the APIA community favor Democrats over Republicans, making the community an important asset in swing States come November.
“Everyone knows the key to winning the Presidency is by winning the West,” said Reid. “And the gateway to the West is Nevada. We have a large Hispanic population, African Americans and the fastest growing Asian American population. We want everyone to be involved in the caucus.”
Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS) said that it’s time for members of the APIA community to remove the myth and stereotype of being politically passive.
“With 150,000 Asian American Pacific Islanders living in Nevada, we are a force in the political process,” said Faleomavaega. “We’ve always been stereotyped that we don’t participate in politics, or that politics is a dirty word. Well, it’s not. If we don’t participate we’re going to be on the losing end. Someone once told me, ‘if you’re not on the table then you’re on the menu.’ I don’t think this is what Asian Americans want.”
Although the rally brought out a large number of APIA community members to the event, there was a chance they could have been left out.
Initial reports found that Democrats only invited members from Nevada’s large Hispanic and Africans American organizations to be part of the debate, leaving Asian Americans sitting on the couch and watching it on TV like everyone else.
However, Democrats hidded the large number of complaints raised by the Nevada APIA leaders.
“The Democrats did respond with this rally,” said Alice Siu, a community outreach press coordinator for the Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote) organization. The organization is non-partisan.
Siu said they have tried contacting the Republican Party but to no avail.
Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) said in order to prevent this from happening, members of the APIA community need to continue to educate and teach their congressional leaders about issues affecting the community.
“The political leadership is suffering from amnesia (when it comes to Asian Americans),” said Honda. “At best it was just an oversight. The problem is that Asian Americans are not part of the rhetoric when it comes to the presidential campaigns. They want to make sure they have the African American vote, or the Hispanic vote. But we are growing. It is our responsibility to teach and educate them about us and our issues so we can be part of that rhetoric.”
The invisibility issue makes it that much more important for Asian Americans to go out there and vote, said Naomi Tacuyen, also of APIAVote.
“We need to increase our visibility – locally and nationally,” she said.
Tacuyen said the reason why Filipinos have not participated more in the US political process is because the community is still new.
“It’s a new immigrant community but it’s rapidly growing,” she said.
Filipinos for Hillary
Volunteers from the APIA vote, who did not want to be named because of the organization’s non-partisanship, said that early phone surveys around the Las Vegas area reveal that FilAms prefer Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) to Barack Obama (D-IL) to be the next President.
During the rally a large number of FilAms wore “Hillary for President” stickers to show their support for the Democratic presidential candidate.
Ray Lopez, a FilAm originally from Mindoro, stood behind the Clinton booth passing out flyers and stickers to passer-bys.
Lopez said he, along with a few other FilAms have been campaigning for Clinton every Saturday in front of the local Seafood City market.
“They are very supportive of Hillary,” said Lopez. “About 95 percent of the people I talk to during the outreach support her.”
Lopez urges FilAms in the Las Vegas area to go to the caucus sites and register for whomever they prefer is there presidential candidate.
FilAm Hedy Gonzalez said, “This [voting] is the only way to exercise our freedom. We are the minority. We need to try to get our voices heard.”