On Friday, August 12, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in WashingtonState and throughout the nation gathered to take part in a web cast of a Presidential Election Forum taking place in front of a live audience of over 3,000 AAPI community members, including journalists, community leaders, business leaders and elected officials in Las Vegas. • Photo by ACRS
On Friday, August 12, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in WashingtonState and throughout the nation gathered to take part in a web cast of a Presidential Election Forum taking place in front of a live audience of over 3,000 AAPI community members, including journalists, community leaders, business leaders and elected officials in Las Vegas. • Photo by ACRS

The growing population of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has compelled the presidential candidates to think about them and to prepare a roadmap to draw their votes for their respective parties.

The Asian and Pacific Islander Americans Vote (APIAVote) and Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA) hosted a 2016 Presidential Election Forum in Las Vegas, Nevada last August to focus on the AAPI community issues. The forum featured two presidential candidates, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein, as well as Utah’s attorney general Sean Reyes speaking on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton speaking on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The candidates and surrogates addressed 3,000 attendees in Caesars Palace hotel, representing 40 organizations, and people at “watch parties” in 20 states via live stream of the entire event. The forum gave each party an opportunity to speak directly to the AAPI community and share their agendas.

Clinton elaborated on the immigration reforms, education policy, economic plans and loan policies of Hillary Clinton. He talked about how Asian American owners of small businesses have generated numbers of job opportunities and contributed to America’s economy.

Presenting Hillary Clinton’s agenda, Clinton stated that applying for loans will be easier, and more small businesses will be encouraged to include more women and minorities in these businesses.

While addressing the AAPI attendees and viewers, Clinton said that they should choose a president who takes AAPIs as an integral piece of the American story. “You want a president like Hillary who sees you as part and parcel of the American quilt of diversity,” Clinton said. “The metaphor for this election will be walls or bridges. Are we stronger together or apart?”

Reyes spoke about his own personal experience growing up and tried to clarify Trump’s recent remarks on Filipinos. He even spoke about the Trump’s support for legal immigration. He mentioned lowering the taxes on small business owners. He closed with a rap.

Whereas Johnson and Stein came out with their ideas working for the betterment for AAPIs while speaking with the host Richard Lui from MSNBC, Johnson focused on criticizing Trump’s views. Stein emphasized ecological issues.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) chairperson, spoke at the forum about the importance of AAPI voters in the upcoming presidential election and how they have emerged as one of the important voter blocs.

“We are at another historic first as Presidential campaigns make their case directly to Asian American voters. In the past, AAPIs did not have a voice in this democracy,” Chu said. “But today, AAPIs are the fastest growing ethnic demographic in the country and today’s forum demonstrates the growing political impact of the AAPI vote.”

APIA Vote founding member Daphne Kwok said during the forum, “From Southeast Asia to the Indian subcontinent to Native Hawaiians, the AAPI community represents a heritage and history that spans the globe.”

According to APIAVote, AAPIs are the fastest growing racial group in the country, expected to grow from 20 million to more than 50 million by 2060. The rising influence of the AAPI community is evident in the past two election cycles, where the AAPI vote has been an important factor in election outcomes in key battleground states. In many of these states, the AAPI voter population either equaled or exceeded the margin of victory in previous presidential elections.

At the watch party in Seattle, Candace Inagi, development director for the Asian Counseling Referral Services (ACRS), said this forum was an opportunity to increase visibility of Asian Pacific Americans to candidates around the United States.

“We have seen in the process that the candidates refer to the other minority communities but they rarely refer to Asian American communities,” Inagi said. “This is an opportunity to get seen and the candidates at that level should know that we are getting mobilized for November—but it is really not just about the day.”

Inagi noted that the forum is a reflection of deepening work in our community, to build multi-generational civic engagement, vibrant and deep as the languages the Asian Pacific American community speak.

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