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The 115th Congress is History-Making for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

by Charles Lam /
A lone worker passes by the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, in October.JASON REED / Reuters file

From a record number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in Congress to the first Indian-American women elected to the Senate and House of Representatives, the swearing in of the 115th Congress Tuesday represents a number of history-making firsts for the AAPI community:

  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is the first Thai American elected to the Senate and the first Asian-American senator elected from the state of Illinois. Prior to her election, she was also the first Asian-American House representative from the state.
  • Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) is the first Vietnamese-American woman to be elected to Congress and only the second Vietnamese American, following former Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.). She is also the first Asian-American representative from Florida.
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) is the first Indian-American woman elected to the House of Representatives as well as the first Asian-American representative from Washington.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is the first Indian-American woman elected to the Senate.
  • Including Harris, there are four women of color in the Senate, an all-time high. Of those four, three are AAPI — Harris, Duckworth, and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hi.).
  • In addition to Jayapal and Harris, there are three other Indian-American members of Congress — Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) — for a total of five, a record high for the Indian-American community.
  • In total, there are 18 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the 115th Congress, an all-time record, up from the prior high of 14 AAPI members in the 114th Congress, according to the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“This week, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community made historic strides when a record number of AAPIs were sworn into the U.S. Congress," Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) told NBC News. "Our increasing numbers in Congress serve as a testament to the growing political influence of the AAPI community and the diversity we represent. As the Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I look forward to working with our new members to counter any negative policy proposals targeting our communities and to defend the civil liberties of all Americans."

NBC Asian America profiled the five freshman AAPI representatives in the House:

Follow NBC Asian America on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the date of the swearing ins.


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