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The Top Three Election Issues That Concerned Asian Americans in 2016

Today, Asian Americans make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population and only 3 percent of voters, according to the latest National Asian American Survey. As such, it’s not a group that political studies have historically tracked—so Mochi conducted its own post-election survey in early December to better understand our readers’ political views and level of engagement.

We received over 300 responses from AAPI participants across all 50 states. These were the biggest issues that concerned them during the 2016 presidential election:

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Civil Rights

Nearly 60 percent of participants reported that civil rights are important to them. This doesn’t come as a surprise—race and gender inequality is a major issue in educational institutions and the workplace.

“We’ve seen a major pushback and even the erosion of civil rights and the breakdown of norms about how those rights are conceived, despite major breakthroughs like marriage equality,” says Andrew Lim, 30, a New Yorker who identifies as both Asian American and LGBT. “I was really hoping for a Clinton presidency to help balance that, to protect the rights of minorities and of all Americans in general.”

More Asian Americans are engaging in the fight to secure these rights, too. In response to one of the biggest racial justice movements of the past few years—Black Lives Matter—a group of Asian Americans published an impassioned open letter on why the Asian American community needs to be supporting BLM in early July. The letter went viral, and it was one of many signs that this demographic are indeed interested in politics.

At the same time, Asian Americans continue to struggle with stereotypes like the model minority, which includes assumptions like all Asians are “good at math” and have a “quiet demeanor.” Take, for example, an incident in early October when a Fox News reporter relied on appalling stereotypes as he interviewed NYC Chinatown residents in a “comical” segment. In what was supposed to be a conversation about then-candidate Donald Trump, he asked such questions as “Am I supposed to bow to say hello?” and “Do you know karate?”

The media is a powerful tool in amplifying unheard voices. Former New York Times deputy editor Michael Luo published an open letter to a woman who told him and his family to go back to China while walking down Fifth Avenue. The letter generated a huge amount of support and a response video in which Asian Americans shared the racist comments that they themselves have received. The interviews ended with #Thisis2016.

Women’s Reproductive Rights

The second most pressing issue for Asian Americans is women’s reproductive rights, with 46 percent of survey participants expressing concern. (For context, 73 percent of participants identify as female). The thorny issue of abortion, though not a new topic, is a prominent one in this arena.

“I am pro-choice, [but] holding that belief doesn’t give me the permission to dictate what should happen to other women,” says Lily Convey, a 20-year-old student at Baylor University. “I don’t have their history or the same experiences as they do, and that is a decision that they must make for themselves.”

Women’s reproductive rights go beyond abortion; birth control and religious exemptions, which have led to numerous lawsuits the past few years, are also part of the discussion.

Immigration

Thirty-five percent of Mochi’s survey participants also noted that immigration is very important to them, with many being concerned that Trump will undo what President Obama has done. There was much support of the Obama administration’s implementation of the Immigration Act in 2013, which grants parents and their children citizenship if they’ve lived in the United States for five years, registered with the government, and undergone a background check.

In contrast, President Trump has made alarming claims on the campaign trail that he’ll deport illegal immigrants, create a registry for Muslims, and “build a wall” on the U.S.-Mexican border since the start of the election—and he seems to be keeping his promises. Recently, he issued a controversial ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days to ensure the safety of the United States from terrorist attacks, according to Trump’s executive order published on PBS Newshour. Another one of his first orders of business after arriving at the White House was to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Trump’s deportation orders are getting pushback from “sanctuary” cities that “limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities by refusing most requests to detain, pursue, or report undocumented immigrants.” San Francisco, New York, and Chicago are just some examples, though President Trump has already threatened to cut off funding for these cities. There’s also a growing movement of advocating for colleges and universities to become sanctuary campuses.

As social activist and Ph.D. candidate Arijit Sehanobish explains, it’s a similar concept: these schools keep students’ immigration status private from immigration and border agents; direct campus security to not assist these agencies; bar agents from entering campus buildings; and provide legal and other types of aid to students affected. (He notes that some cities, counties, and institutions are actively avoiding the term “sanctuary” to avoid an inaccurate and unfortunate association to violent crime that right-wing politicians have made.)

Unsurprisingly, the ideas of deportation and nation-based discrimination hit close to home and extend beyond the people affected. As 20-year-old Moyna Ghosh from Georgia says: “I’m the daughter of immigrants. My parents have been living in this country for more than 30 years. Yet this election has made me feel like I don’t exactly belong in this country and that it can’t be my home because I’m not white. These issues matter now because we can’t let our country get away with a ban on any identity group or nationality.”

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