Twenty Asian American and Pacific Islanders who served in the Obama administration announced their endorsement Friday of former Vice President Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee.
Among those declaring their support in a joint statement shared first with NBC Asian America were former Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu; the former executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Kiran Ahuja; and Dr. Tung Nguyen, chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The group cited, in part, Biden’s work on the Affordable Care Act and his leadership during the Great Recession as reasons for the endorsement.
“All of us saw Joe Biden’s empathy, his decency, and his commitment to expanding opportunity for all Americans,” the group wrote. “He has a deep appreciation for the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and a keen understanding of the challenges still facing the AAPI community. Now more than ever, we need a president who values our nation’s diversity and will fight to create a more fair and just country.”
They added: “We are proud to endorse him for president and support him in this fight to restore the soul of our nation.”
Another powerful group of Asian Americans, ASPIRE, the political arm of Asian American and Pacific Islander Members of Congress, also announced their support for Biden on Friday. Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., chair of the political action committee, wrote in a statement that Biden’s allyship with the AAPI community
“We need a president that will unite Americans, instead of taking every opportunity to divide us from one another. Joe Biden will lead us through this unprecedented crisis with science, integrity, and compassion,” Meng said in the statement. “He has been a strong ally of AAPIs throughout his service in the Senate and Obama administration, and he understands that diversity makes our country great. As president, he will stand with AAPIs and ensure that Americans from all communities are treated with dignity and respect.”
Christine Chen, executive director of APIAVote, said that these endorsements could prove effective for the Biden campaign, since "having endorsements from trusted AAPI leaders shows folks that this is also another level of civic engagement participation.”
The Asian American electorate is becoming an increasingly powerful demographic group. Pew Research revealed in a recent report that the number of Asian American eligible voters ballooned by 139 percent in the past 20 years, making them the fastest growing demographic group of eligible voters compared to all other major races and ethnicities. They’re also the only group composed of a majority of naturalized immigrants. Chen has noted that the group has amassed enough influence to have a profound impact in some races. In some cases, they could potentially swing districts.
Chen acknowledged that the Biden campaign, as well as others, has hired AAPI outreach directors this election cycle, even though more efforts to connect should be made.
Biden has addressed AAPI issues a handful of times in the campaign. He recently co-wrote a piece with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., for NBC Think, condemning the racism and discrimination directed toward the Asian American community as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also slammed President Donald Trump’s use of phrases like the “Chinese virus,” writing that the language stokes xenophobia.
However, Biden has also gotten heat for a campaign ad that claimed Trump “rolled over for the Chinese” and failed to hold the nation accountable for their handling of the pandemic. The ad prompted criticisms from many Asian Americans who said such messages could put those in the community in harm’s way.
There are the Asian American and Pacific Islanders who served in the Obama administration and have endorsed Biden:
Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and PacificIslanders
Gaurab Bansal, Deputy White House Cabinet Secretary
Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs
Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer
Steve Chu, Secretary of Energy
Nani Coloretti, Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Nancy-Ann DeParle, White House Deputy Chief of Staff
Chris Kang, Deputy Counsel to the President
Esther Kia’aina, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas
Harold Hongju Koh, Legal Adviser, Department of State
Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health
Gary Locke, Secretary of Commerce; U.S. Ambassador to China
Chris Lu, Deputy Secretary of Labor
Seema Nanda, Chief of Staff, Department of Labor
Dr. Tung Nguyen, Chair, President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Sonal Shah, Director, White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation
Rhea Suh, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Policy, Management and Budget
Doua Thor, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific
Rich Verma, U.S. Ambassador to India
Jenny Yang, Chair, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission