NEW YORK – Hate and bias crimes against Asian communities continue to spiral, with no end in sight, as the US-China spat over the origin of the coronavirus pandemic escalates, and easing of lockdown in many states see more angry and disillusioned people out on the streets. Amidst all this, come the news that Asian Americans are the fastest-growing segment of eligible voters out of the major racial and ethnic groups in the country.
A new Pew Research report, based on Census Bureau data, released earlier this month, revealed that more than 11 million Asian Americans will be able to vote this year, making up nearly 5% of the nation’s eligible voters. They are also the only major racial or ethnic group in which naturalized citizens, rather than the US born, make up a majority of eligible voters.
From 2000 to 2020, the number of Asian American eligible voters more than doubled, growing by 139%. The Hispanic electorate grew at a similar rate (121%), but the black and white electorates grew far more slowly (33% and 7%), the report noted.
Naturalized immigrants have driven the Asian electorate’s rapid growth. Between 2000 and 2018 – the most recent year available – the number of Asian immigrant eligible voters doubled from 3.3 million to 6.9 million. As of 2018, naturalized citizens accounted for about two-thirds of all US Asian eligible voters.
Even though Asian Americans are projected to make up a record high 4.7% of US eligible voters this year, the share is still lower than their proportion of the nation’s total population (5.6%). The difference is partly due to the 4.5 million adult immigrant Asians who are not citizens and are therefore unable to vote.
This group includes permanent residents (green card holders) and those in the process of becoming permanent residents; those in the US on temporary visas; and unauthorized immigrants. These groups make up about a quarter of the overall Asian population in the U.S. (24%). Another 3.5 million Asians in the US, or 19% of their total population, are under the age of 18, making them ineligible to vote. Altogether, about six-in-ten (57%) of the nation’s 18.2 million US Asians are eligible voters, Pew noted.
The US Asian electorate is a diverse group, with eligible voters tracing their roots to countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Just six origin groups – Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese – account for the majority of US Asian voters. This pattern closely mirrors the Asian American population as a whole: The same six origin groups make up 85% of all U.S. Asians.
A 2018 survey by AAPI Data found that party identification varies by origin group. For example, Vietnamese Americans are more likely than Asian Americans overall to identify as Republican (42% vs. 28%). By contrast, Indian Americans are the most likely to be Democrats of any Asian origin group, with 50% identifying as Democrats and just 18% as Republican.
Meanwhile, only in Hawaii do Asian Americans account for a larger share of eligible voters than any racial or ethnic group. They make up 38% of the state’s eligible voters, by far the highest share in the country. California has the next highest share with 14%. Hawaii is also the state where the highest share of Asian Americans is eligible to vote (73%). It is followed by the District of Columbia (69%), Nevada (66%) and California (62%), the Pew report said.
US Asian eligible voters stand out from those in other racial and ethnic groups in a number of ways. About seven-in-ten (71%) report speaking only English at home or say they speak English “very well” – lower than the share who say this among Hispanic (80%), black (98%) and white (99%) eligible voters.
Asian American eligible voters are dispersed throughout the country, but more than half live in only three states. California alone holds 35% of the Asian electorate (3.6 million). The state with the second-most Asian American eligible voters is New York (920,000), followed by Texas (698,000).
Also, among eligible voters, Asian Americans have the highest levels of educational attainment of any major racial and ethnic group. Half (50%) have a bachelor’s degree or more; a higher share than white (34%), black (20%) or Hispanic (18%) eligible voters.
Educational attainment varies widely among different US Asian origin groups. Indian American eligible voters are by far the most likely to have at least a bachelor’s degree (65%). By comparison, only 19% of Cambodian American eligible voters have the same level of education, the lowest share of any Asian American origin group, the report said.
Asian eligible voters have an annual median household income of $105,000, the highest of any racial or ethnic group. White, Hispanic and black eligible voters all have median household incomes below $80,000. Among Asian American origin groups, US Indian eligible voters ($139,000) have the highest median household income, while Burmese Americans ($69,000) have the lowest.
The median age of Asian American eligible voters is 46, making them older than black (44) and Hispanic (38) eligible voters but younger than white voters (51). However, age among Asian American voters differs widely between those who are US born and foreign born. US-born Asian eligible voters are 20 years younger at the median than those born abroad (31 vs. 51), the Pew report said.
PUSH FOR GREEN CARD ‘RECAPTURE’
With several choking immigration restrictions in place – with the H-1B visa program suspended for now – there is concern amongst immigration advocates about the future growth of the Asian American community, though.
The number of Indian American green card holders and future voters could be bolstered in a big way, though, if a bipartisan piece of legislation introduced in the Senate by Dick Durbin, top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, along with fellow Democrat Chris Coons and Republicans David Perdue and Todd Young – the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act S.3599/ HR6788 – passes in Congress.
The essence of the bill is to recapture 25,000 unused immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 such visas for physicians, dominated by Indian petitioners, who are languishing in the Green Card pipeline, with wait time decades long for some because of the annual per-country quota immigration law system.
Durbin pointed out that one-sixth of the health care workforce in the US is foreign-born.
”It is unacceptable that thousands of doctors currently working in the US on temporary visas are stuck in the green card backlog, putting their futures in jeopardy and limiting their ability to contribute to the fight against covid-19,” Durbin stated, while pushing the legislation.
HATE CRIMES SHOW DISTURBING TREND
Vice reported that hate crimes against Asian communities in the US show no sign of abating, even as the number of eligible voters, trend upwards.
‘When President Trump started referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” in March, he changed how Asian communities across the U.S. experienced the pandemic. The racialization of a disease perpetuated fear and, in some cases, violence against their communities’, Vice reported.
“If you stigmatize a group, that opens up and gives license to direct hate and to direct violence against people. It dehumanizes people, objectifies people and equates us to a virus,” Russell Jeung, chair and professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University, was quoted as saying.
Jeung worked with civil rights groups to start a hotline to track discrimination called STOP AAPI HATE. Since March 19, it has gotten reports of more than 1,700 racist and xenophobic attacks, Vice reported.
Jeung worries that the nightmare will only get worse.
“As we’re being sheltered in place, and as unemployment grows, and as politicians make U.S.-China relations a campaign issue, and as the deaths from COVID-19 mount, the anger and fear is only going to increase,” he was quoted saying, by Vice.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)