Four presidential campaigns address AAPIs at historic election forum

An unprecedented presidential election forum for and by Asian American Pacific Islander groups set the stage for the campaigns of four parties to address the AAPI community inside the Colosseum at Caesars Palace Friday.

Speakers included President Bill Clinton, speaking on behalf of Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump campaign surrogate Utah Attorney Gen. Sean Reyes, as well as Independent party presidential nominee Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

The Asian American Journalists Association, which organized the forum in partnership with APIAVote, called the event “the largest gathering of AAPI national organizations across sectors ever,” with 3,000 leaders and 40 organizations present.

In his address, Clinton placed emphasis on the idea of “stronger together.”

“My dream America in the 21st century includes an inclusive society where we value our diversity,” Clinton said. Hillary, he said, “believes we need comprehensive immigration reform. There is someone here from everywhere. Our diversity gives us an irresistible mix of creativity and unlimited potential – she favors immigration reform because there are too many families every single day about whether they’re going to be broken up. A significant percentage of them are AAPI. We should care about them. … She is determined to bring stability, sanity and future orientation to this issue.”

Clinton reminded AAPIs of their rising political force as the swing vote in states like Nevada and Pennsylvania. “You’re going to have a big impact on the vote in [swing states], but you ought to show up everywhere, in state elections and in federal elections,” Clinton said.

Reyes, who is of Filipino descent on his father’s side and of Native Hawaiian and Japanese descent on his mother’s side, attended the forum on behalf of Donald Trump. Reyes holds the distinction of being the first minority elected as a state official in Utah.

He touched on Trump’s vision for education, economic policies and affirmative action, as well as controversial comments made recently by Trump on Filipinos at a Maine rally, where the Republican presidential nominee included the Southeast Asian country among “terrorist nations” and as “animals.”

“Those issues are near and dear to my heart,” Reyes said. “What Mr. Trump was trying to communicate, and I have full authority to make this clarification, is that he welcomes law-abiding Filipinos who want to come and have a better life or better opportunities whether they want to live here or go back to the Philippines. He welcomes them. … He was talking about terrorist elements that do exist in the Philippines. That exists, and that is what Mr. Trump is talking about.”

Expressing his support for Trump, Reyes said he wanted “visionary leadership, not the status quo.”

The forum was also a gathering place for Asian American lawmakers, including Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Rep. Judy Chu and Rep. Mike Honda.

Honda lauded the event and said he was proud to see the venue filled with a multi-partisan Asian American electorate.

“All of you decided to come together regardless of party affiliation,” Honda said. “We are not a spectator sport. This is participatory. … We have to go for the gold medal, go for the 100 percent turnout of Asian American voters. Let us prove to them … that Asian Americans are concerned, loyal citizens in this election.”

More on this year’s election:
As Asian American electorate grows, so does community outreach