Tian Wang is 32, a freelance investor, and he hates people who enter the country illegally.
“Why would you like anybody who’s illegal?” he told NBC News.
Wang isn’t one to mince his words, which is why he says he likes Donald Trump. At first, he was leaning toward supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, but then he discovered some online videos of the billionaire Republican candidate, known for his off-the-cuff remarks, and he binge watched for nearly five hours.
“I said, 'This guy is really cool.' He speaks from his — You know, he speaks from his mouth, really,” Wang said, laughing. “But most of the stuff he said is pretty straightforward and true.”
Wang, who left China when he was 10, is married with three kids, and lives in Los Angeles, said he would “absolutely” vote for the presumptive Republican nominee save for one small problem — he cannot vote.
So Wang, a permanent U.S. resident, did the next best thing. A week after Trump announced his candidacy, Wang founded a group called “Chinese Americans for Trump,” an effort to galvanize eligible Chinese-American voters to back the real-estate mogul in primaries, caucuses, and the general election.
“It is my freedom to go out on the street and say, ‘I love Trump,’ as a permanent resident,” Wang said, adding that he’s filed his citizenship papers and hopes to cast a ballot in November.
With less than two months to go before the Republican convention, and with California primaries scheduled for June 7, Trump stopped in Anaheim on Wednesday and will visit San Diego and Fresno on Friday. Wearing Chinese Americans love Trump T-shirts and buttons, at least 50 supporters in Wang’s group planned to attend the Anaheim rally and at least 30 were likely to show up in San Diego, he said. Wang said he’ll be at both events.
It’s unclear just how many Chinese-American voters feel the way Wang does. An Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund exit poll for New York’s primary last month found that 60 percent of Asian-American Republicans voted for Trump, 12 percent for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and 12 percent for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The poll surveyed 513 Asian-American voters in New York City’s Chinatown, one of the country’s largest, with 8 percent identifying as registered Republicans. Nationwide, Asian Americans accounted for 3.9 percent of voters in 2012.
Similar to Trump fans in Wang’s group, Chinese Americans also attended rallies last year to support Bush’s presidential bid. Seen as more toned down than Trump, Bush was viewed favorably by some in the Chinese-American community, even after his controversial comment about "anchor babies," a reference to children of mothers from other countries who come to the U.S. to give birth. Bush, who dropped out in February, had said the term “was more related to Asian people coming into our country.”
Meanwhile, a report released Monday by nonpartisan advocacy groups found that one in two Chinese Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Trump.
Rui Dai, a 40-year-old stay-at-home mom in Maryland, is not one of them.
Dai told NBC News she grew interested in Trump after first viewing some parodies and skits of the candidate in October. Curious to learn more, she went to Trump’s website and watched his speeches, she said, listening directly to what he had to say.
“I found that many of his suggestions are making sense,” Dai, who was born in China and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, said. “It’s not nonsense. And I found he’s the only one who can state the tough situation of America.”
Wang and Dai, who belong to the same group, use a popular Chinese-language messaging platform called WeChat to organize their members across the country. It’s the same tool that was used most recently to organize large-scale nationwide protests in support of Peter Liang, the Chinese-American former New York Police Department (NYPD) officer who was sentenced in April to probation for killing an unarmed man in a Brooklyn housing project. Wang said he helped put together those rallies, which attracted tens of thousands of Chinese Americans across the country.
Dai said Chinese Americans for Trump has around 1,500 active members, counting up all the subgroups, which she said includes “Chinese Women for Trump.” Members come from all over the U.S., Dai said, including Massachusetts, New York, Florida, Texas, and California. Around 90 percent of them are registered voters, Wang said.
Wang said he agrees with Trump’s position on immigration, which includes ending birthright citizenship, and supports his proposal to build a wall across the U.S and Mexico border to be paid for by Mexico’s government. Experts predict that such a project could cost billions of dollars.
“I love that great wall idea — it’s great,” Wang said. “It’s ingenious. It’s going to boost up the United States economy.”
Wang said he also supports Trump’s policies on China, which include declaring the country a currency manipulator, ending its intellectual property violations, and eliminating what Trump says are illegal export subsidies.
“I think he understands that China is a big threat to America in terms of getting the first spot of the world,” Wang, who added that Trump’s rhetoric on China doesn’t offend him, said.
Wang also said he’s been particularly upset with the ubiquity of fake iPhones, which he saw firsthand on a trip back to China, and pirated videos available on websites or DVDs. Trump has said intellectual property theft costs the U.S. over $300 billion a year, according to his website and a May 2013 report from the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, an independent and bipartisan initiative. China is roughly 70 percent to blame, the report said.
“Some people have no respect for that,” Wang said. “I absolutely support Mr. Trump on that issue — as a Chinese American.”
For Dai, who said she agrees with 99 percent of Trump’s views, education is a key issue. As a mother of a seven-year-old girl, she said she supports Trump’s promise to end the Common Core, a controversial set of academic standards in math and English adopted by 42 states, and to bring education to the “local level.”
Some see the Common Core as a way to make students college ready, while others view the standards as onerous and a sap on student creativity.
“Public schools, what they’re teaching, are a total disaster, especially the math, the ideology,” Dai said.
Members of Chinese Americans for Trump say they would relish a face-to-face meeting with the man himself — an opportunity they may get come June 2, according to Wang. An email sent to the Trump campaign Wednesday to confirm the meeting was not returned.
For Dai, a first-time voter who changed her party identification from Independent to Republican, candidates like Trump are hard to come by.
“It’s a very rare chance,” she said. “If we cannot grasp it this time, we will have no more chance in the future.”