Will Asians spur new po­lit­i­cal changes?

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Opinion -

The same sort of panic that hit Cal­i­for­nia’s Lati­nos af­ter the 1994 pas­sage of the anti-il­le­gal im­mi­grant Propo­si­tion 187 is now hit­ting many of this state’s al­most 6 mil­lion eth­nic-asian res­i­dents.

Latino fears in the wake of 187, which sought to keep the un­doc­u­mented out of pub­lic schools, hospi­tal emergency rooms and seem­ingly any­place its authors could imag­ine, led to cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tions and then voter reg­is­tra­tion by more than 2.5 mil­lion His­pan­ics over the next three years.

They caused a po­lit­i­cal revo­lu­tion in Cal­i­for­nia, which mor­phed from a swing state equally likely to elect Re­pub­li­cans or Democrats into one of the most staunchly Demo­cratic states in the Union. Only one Repub­li­can has been elected to statewide of­fice in the last 20 years, the al­most non­par­ti­san for­mer Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger who won out in the 2003 re­call of ex-gov. Gray Davis.

Now Asian im­mi­grants are feel­ing fearful be­cause of Pres­i­dent Trump’s ban on en­try to this coun­try by res­i­dents of sev­eral Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries and his at­tempts to re­strict the num­ber of po­lit­i­cal and hu­man­i­tar­ian refugees al­lowed in, plus a drive to deport Viet­namese refugees with any kind of crime on their record, no mat­ter how old or mi­nor.

Asians also re­mem­ber the Ja­panese in­tern­ment dur­ing World War II, in which 120,000 Ja­pane­seam­er­i­cans were held in re­mote camps for sev­eral years.

“You hope things like that can’t hap­pen again, but they re­ally can,” said one green card holder from Thai­land. “So I will be­come a cit­i­zen.”

Like her, thou­sands of Asians in Cal­i­for­nia, from coun­tries as di­verse as China, the Philip­pines and In­dia, see cit­i­zen­ship as the best pro­tec­tion from a po­ten­tial fu­ture ex­pul­sion.

If they be­come cit­i­zens in any­thing like the pro­por­tions of Lati­nos who felt sim­i­larly in Cal­i­for­nia af­ter pas­sage of 187, they could spur vast po­lit­i­cal changes well be­yond this state’s borders. In fact, if both they and cit­i­zen­shipel­i­gi­ble Latino im­mi­grants ever regis­ter in large num­bers, they could turn sev­eral on­cesolid Repub­li­can states into bat­tle­grounds or cause them to lean Demo­cratic.

And Asians here are ap­ply­ing, al­though there are im­ped­i­ments Lati­nos did not face in the late 1990s. Ex­am­ple: Of the 220,000 im­mi­grants in Or­ange County now el­i­gi­ble for nat­u­ral­iza­tion, nearby 30 per­cent are Asian. Of them, about 4,500 ap­plied for nat­u­ral­iza­tion through the first three quar­ters of 2017. If that trend con­tin­ues statewide for the re­main­der of Trump’s cur­rent term, more than 150,000 Asians will be added to Cal­i­for­nia’s vot­ing rolls.

Be­cause reg­is­ter­ing

they’re largely

for the same rea­sons as Lati­nos once did, they prob­a­bly won’t change this state’s po­lit­i­cal com­po­si­tion. But what about other states? Tak­ing Texas as an ex­am­ple, more than 680,000 Asians are now el­i­gi­ble for cit­i­zen­ship but have not ap­plied. That could make for big change in a state that in Novem­ber al­most gave a Democrats their first statewide vic­tory in more than 20 years.

Yes, the $725 nat­u­ral­iza­tion ap­pli­ca­tion fee is a road­block for many. So is the re­quired bl­iz­zard of pa­per­work. But Texas saw more than 20,000 cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tions from Asians last year. If Lati­nos, many even more ap­pre­hen­sive about Trump’s poli­cies than Asians, regis­ter in Texas in sim­i­lar per­cent­ages – and they have not yet – they could com­bine with Asians to turn Texas Demo­cratic. For that state con­tains more than 3 mil­lion His­pan­ics who have not sought nat­u­ral­iza­tion de­spite be­ing el­i­gi­ble.

For sure, the num­bers in­di­cate fear among both Lati­nos and Asians has not reached the same lev­els it did among Cal­i­for­nia His­pan­ics af­ter 187.

But what hap­pens when and if Trump begins se­ri­ous work on his lon­gad­ver­tised bor­der wall? And what if he at­tempts mass de­por­ta­tions of il­le­gal im­mi­grants, as for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions ad­vo­cated dur­ing his days in the Se­nate?

For sure, hate crimes against im­mi­grants of all kinds in­creased dur­ing Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and his first year in of­fice. If that trend ac­cel­er­ates, it may spur the kind of fears that pushed Lati­nos to get nat­u­ral­ized here.

Isaac New­ton’s third law of mo­tion tells us that for ev­ery ac­tion there is an equal and op­po­site re­ac­tion. Just as for­mer Pres­i­dent Obama’s poli­cies pro­duced the back­lash that elected Trump, so Trump’s poli­cies may al­ready have be­gun pro­duc­ing an even stronger na­tional back­lash against him and his party.

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