Issues Remain as Asian-American and Pacific Islander Population Grows: Report

FILE PHOTO: Voters cast ballots in Los Angeles County in California on November 6, 2012.FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP/Getty Images

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By Sylvia Cunningham

With fewer than six months left to go before the general election in November, a new report published in the "AAPI Nexus" journal reiterates the trend that the United States is facing a major demographic shift, especially when it comes to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Entitled “AAPIs 2040,” the special issue contains projections that, by the year 2040, the number of Asian-American voters will double, one out of every 10 Americans will be Asian American or Pacific Islander, and roughly half of the community will be immigrants from abroad.

FILE PHOTO: Voters cast ballots in Los Angeles County in California on November 6, 2012.FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP/Getty Images

Demographer and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles Luskin School of Public Affairs Paul Ong told NBC News that despite the projected increase of U.S.-born Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the population will retain deep ties to Asian countries through families and relatives. He said those ties might shape opinions on immigration and immigration reform.

RELATED: New Report Finds Immigrants Fuel Growth of Asian Voter Population

Ong said he thinks Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are often cast as scapegoats, especially when it comes to the upcoming presidential election.

“China is being cast as a potential adversary, both an economic and military adversary,” Ong said. “And there’s some elements of truth, but what happens is that it spills over in terms of the perceptions of Asian American Pacific Islanders.”

Ong also cited Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American man bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat in 1982 after two white men mistook him as being Japanese. The older of the two men worked as a foreman at the car manufacturer Chrysler and blamed Japanese people for taking U.S. auto manufacturing jobs.

Elena Ong, guest editor of “AAPIs 2040” and vice president of Ong and Associates, said this report offers Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders an opportunity to assess where they are now, where they’re going, and how far they’ve come, especially in relation to the 1960s, when the group comprised less than 1 percent of the total U.S. population.

She also said it represents new opportunities for policymakers, especially as more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders serve in the U.S. Congress than ever before.

A new report published Monday from APIA Vote, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, and AAPI Data finds that Asian-American voters are leaning toward the Democratic party in the 2016 election.

Elena Ong said this shift was seen after Bill Clinton’s term in office. Before he served, AAPIs were largely voting for Republicans. Afterwards, research showed a shift to the Democratic Party, she said.

RELATED: Asian-American Voters Tip Toward Dems Headed into 2016 Election: Study

Still, a large proportion of registered voters in the AAPI community are unaffiliated, Paul Ong said, using California to illustrate the trend. Of California’s Asian-American electorate, 35 percent are unaffiliated with a party, according to a poll by Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles.

“Part of it one could argue is they haven’t quite figured out the parties, but part of it is because I don’t think the parties have figured out Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” Paul Ong said.

"It’s really important to say, ‘You know what? We’re not all liabilities.'"

Paul Ong’s data is more inclusive than some previous projections as he incorporated multiracial Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. By 2040, he projects one out of every six Asian Americans will be multiracial in addition to over 54 percent of Pacific Islanders.

Ong said because of this trend, there will be more people “crossing the color line” and having children of mixed backgrounds.

“We will have a population who has one foot in one community and another foot in another community,” he said. “The best scenario is that they can play a bridging role in our diverse society.”

The special report, which includes essays on education, unions, and aging, also examines the idea of the “model minority” myth, which Elena Ong said has been damaging, particularly during the Civil Rights Movement when Asian Americans were looked at as the ones whose “success” should be emulated.

RELATED: Courting the Youth Vote: How Both Parties Plan to Target Asian-American Millennials

She said this rhetoric was damning over time because it pitted people of color against one another.

Elena Ong said she has noticed confusion about gauging success, particularly when it comes to the concept of averages. There may be huge economic disparities, but they’re not being examined properly, she said.

“They’re not recognizing if by having one hand in the fire and another hand in cold, icy water and just saying, ‘Everything looks rosy for you. You have no problems,’” Elena Ong said. “Those are the types of things that this report brings out.”

As the United States moves to a majority-minority population, Elena Ong said there are people who think the country will flounder.

“It’s really important to say, ‘You know what? We’re not all liabilities," she said. "The reality is we can be assets, and this is how we can contribute.’”

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