During its more than two decades of existence, CAPAC has acted as something of an informational clearinghouse on a wide array of issues ranging from immigration, to political participation, to racial profiling. The breadth of policy issues that the group has addressed reflects the heterogeneous nature of the APA community. During a 2006 series of floor speeches commemorating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, then CAPAC Chairman Mike Honda noted, “As our community expands, we must also continue to educate our fellow citizens about the uniqueness of our experiences. The Asian Pacific Islander American community is often misperceived as monolithic. Our community is extremely diverse in our languages, ethnicities and culture. Aggregating such a large and diverse group makes it difficult to understand the unique problems faced by the individual and subgroups.”85
Immigration has become a perennial issue for APA Members of Congress, particularly regarding preference categories for special professional skills and family reunification. A major piece of legislation with far-reaching implications for Asian immigrants was the Immigration Act of 1990, which modified the H visa for “guest workers,” a program that extended back to the Immigration Act of 1952. For many years the H-1 visa existed for professionals in “specialty” occupations that required advanced training. The 1990 measure created the H-1B for specialty workers, allowing employers to hire skilled individuals for three years and to apply for an additional three years of residency. By the mid-1990s, the H-1B requests from information technology companies boomed as the high-tech industry blossomed. The 1990 act increased the number of such H visas from 54,000 to 140,000. By the time Congress passed the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act in 2000, the number of H-1B visas alone had been increased to 195,000.86
The H-1B visas created a new wave of immigration, as more than half of all H-1B visas since 1990 have been awarded to skilled workers from Asian nations: India, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Philippines. In some years, Asians accounted for 80 percent of all such recipients, and, by the late 1990s, the number of Asian migrants on such temporary visas exceeded the number of individuals admitted as permanent residents on employment-based visas.87 This created a complex immigration picture, since many of these individuals brought families to the United States or started families while in the country. Often these families had mixed statuses as immigrants with parents who were worker nonimmigrants and children who were American citizens.88
In 2006, during the 109th Congress (2005–2007), a proposed immigration bill addressing border security and a path to legalized status for the more than 11 million estimated undocumented immigrants stalled in Congress. During congressional debate about various proposals, CAPAC called attention to aspects of immigration reform that directly affected Asian Pacific Americans, but which had received little attention by Congress or the media—issues like family reunification and the long backlog in the family immigration system, especially for applicants from Asian nations.89
To highlight these and other immigration-related issues, CAPAC created its Immigration Task Force. In the 114th Congress, the task force listed among its top priorities preserving “our longstanding tradition of family-based immigration,” reducing wait times for family reunification and related visa applications, providing “legal status and a path to permanent residence for undocumented immigrants” who pay taxes and abide by the law, and easing restrictions on workers with H-1B visas.90
Increasing Political Participation
Any analysis of Asian Pacific Americans’ political participation presents challenges because of their diversity and relatively small numbers. Yet, in recent decades, the accelerating population growth of APAs has increased their influence within the general electorate, especially in the western states where, as of 2010, they made up 11 percent of the region’s combined population. In California, 15 percent of the population is of APA descent, and in Hawaii it is 57 percent.91
Recent surveys analyzing the six largest APA ethnic groups suggest that their voting-registration patterns are comparable to the general population.92 [Table 3.1] Voter turnout among these groups has been generally high. For instance, in the 2004 election, 65 percent of Asian Americans went to the polls, about 15 percent higher than the general electorate.93 [Table 3.2]
Table 3.1: Voter Registration and Voting Percentages, 2008
|U.S. Asian Groups||Percent Registered||Percent Voted|
|General U.S. Population||75||70|
Source: Pew Research Center, “The Rise of Asian Americans,” (4 April 2013): 163, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/06/ 19/the-rise-of-asian-americans.
Table 3.2: Voter Turnout, 2000 to 2012 (in thousands)
|General U.S. Population||110,826||125,736||131,144||132,948|
Source: The Diversifying Electorate—Voting Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin in 2012 (and Other Recent Elections), P20-568, prepared by Thom File, U.S. Census Bureau (Washington, DC, issued May 2013).
Table 3.3: Political Ideology Percentages, 2012
|U.S. Asian Groups||Conservative||Moderate||Liberal|
|General U.S. Population||34||37||24|
Source: Pew Research Center, “The Rise of Asian Americans”: 158.
A recent Pew Research Center study attempted to plot the political spectrum in the United States by asking respondents to identify their political ideologies. In 2010 the U.S. population as a whole identified as more than a third “moderate,” a third “conservative,” and a quarter “liberal.” Asian Americans, however, identified themselves as more than a third “moderate,” but almost a third “liberal,” and just under a quarter “conservative.” In short, the six largest Asian Americans groups are left of center as a whole in a right-of-center country. These summary figures, though, hide wide variations that exist among the different ethnicities. [Table 3.3]
A 2008 study conducted by the Russell Sage Foundation discovered that, when it came to party identification, a large number of Asian Pacific Americans did not identify with any party. In fact, nonidentifiers turned out to be a plurality of responses (35 percent), followed by Democrats (31 percent), Independents (20 percent), and Republicans (14 percent).94
Given the relatively recent trends toward a better understanding of the characteristics of the Asian Pacific American electorate, voter organization and registration became a particular area of emphasis for CAPAC.95 In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, CAPAC Chairman Honda traveled to southern Louisiana to advise the Vietnamese community that was still struggling to recover from the devastation on how to be more politically active. That visit served to inspire Joseph Cao’s political career and his historic election to the House just two years later, when he became the first Vietnamese American elected to Congress.96
The policy of internment during World War II burned a deep mental scar in the Japanese-American community that redress has not been able to fully heal. Accordingly, APA Members of Congress and activists have often taken it upon themselves to ensure that such a traumatic event is never repeated, particularly in instances where internment by group characteristics has been raised as a legitimate policy. For instance, during the summer of 1990, California state assemblyman Gil Ferguson authored a resolution hailing Japanese-American internment as justified. It sparked a 70-minute debate in the California state assembly that was mostly spent denouncing Ferguson’s resolution. Many legislators simply abandoned the floor to register their disgust with Ferguson’s measure. In the end, the resolution was soundly defeated, 60 to 4.97
Civil liberties gained renewed national attention for Asian Pacific American Members of Congress, particularly in the months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as the nation prepared for the “War on Terror.” Overnight, Americans of South-Asian heritage were identified by some as possible terrorists and businesses, residences, and individuals seen as Muslim (including the non-Muslim Sikhs) were attacked. On September 15, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi, owner of a gas station in Mesa, Arizona, was killed in an act of retaliation for the terrorist attacks.98 Senator Inouye of Hawaii defended American Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11, comparing the bigotry directed at them to the experience of Japanese Americans following Pearl Harbor. “The lessons learned must remain as a grave reminder of what we must not allow to happen again to any group,” Inouye warned.99
Roughly 18 months later, during an interview on a phone-in radio talk show, North Carolina Congressman Howard Coble, the chairman of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security favorably cited President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese Americans when responding “to a caller’s suggestion that Arabs in the United States be imprisoned as an anti-terrorist measure.” Several APA Members quickly responded, including Representatives Honda, Wu, and Robert T. Matsui of California. “If we do not accurately portray the past,” Wu told the press, “we risk repeating it.”100
More recently, CAPAC has expressed concerns over various public Justice Department investigations of Chinese-American scientists that have been dropped with no charges, reminiscent of the long and drawn-out case of the physicist Wen Ho Lee over possible espionage. “We cannot tolerate another case of Asian-Americans being wrongfully suspected of espionage,” said CAPAC Chairwoman Judy Chu. “The profiling must end.”101
Guam War Claims
For decades, Guamanian Delegates in Congress sought restitution for damages incurred and wrongs committed during World War II. Over the course of the nearly three-year Japanese occupation of Guam, Chamorros of all ages were raped, beaten, or executed for small offenses. Many were subjected to forced marches and confinement in concentration camps. Others endured Japanese language and cultural assimilation schools.102 Into the 21st century—more than 70 years after the war ended—Guam’s Delegates still pursued claims for compensation for island residents suffering the aftereffects of the destruction of life and property.
Following up on the efforts of both Delegates Won Pat and Ben Blaz, Robert Underwood introduced a war claims measure in each of the 104th, 105th, and 106th Congresses (1995–2001).103 His bills, which requested $20,000 for the descendants of those killed, $7,000 for the injured, and $5,000 to those subjected to forced marches or imprisonment, were all bogged down because Congress balked at the eventual cost and did not have access to what it considered to be an authoritative list of claimants. Underwood estimated the cost of the bill at up to $50 million, but the Congressional Budget Office scored the legislation at three times that amount in 2000.104
A change of strategy in the 106th Congress (1999–2001) finally overcame concerns about cost. Underwood began working with Hawaii Senator Inouye to create a fact-finding commission to identify claimants and estimate a more accurate cost.105 He quickly recrafted the most recent version of his bill, H.R. 755, the War Restitution Act. The House Committee on Resources reported the bill as the Guam War Claims Review Commission Act, which established a five-member Guam War Claims Commission within the Department of Interior to determine through oral testimony and documentary evidence who was eligible for compensation and how much it would cost.106 The House passed the amended bill on September 12, 2000, but the Senate was unable to take action on the measure before the end of the Congress.
Undeterred, Underwood introduced an identical bill (H.R. 308) in January 2001 at the start of the 107th Congress. Moments before the bill was approved by voice vote in March, Underwood hoped that with its passage “the World War II generation of the people of Guam … will be finally made whole.” American Samoan Delegate Eni Faleomavaega further testified that every Guam Delegate from Underwood back to Won Pat had sought this “long, long overdue” legislation. Indeed, Underwood credited his predecessor, Delegate Ben Blaz—a Republican, who had been imprisoned by Japanese forces during World War II—for lobbying on his behalf, despite the fact that Underwood had once criticized Blaz on his lack of progress on the war claims issue.107
It was November 2002 before Underwood’s bill cleared the Senate. President George W. Bush signed the Guam War Claims Review Commission Act into law on December 16, 2002. It marked Underwood’s last act in Congress: “Suffice to say that I had to evade legislative minefields, be mindful of the legislative clock and listen to the sage advice of experienced legislators like Daniel Inouye, Daniel Akaka, and Norman Mineta,” he recalled.108
After receiving more than 5,300 responses to questionnaires in addition to the 18 boxes of claims, Delegate Won Pat had saved, the commission opened in September 2003.109 The panel took the testimony of a “‘parade of survivors’ and their pitiful, agonizing, horrifying testimonies,” according to one local observer, before issuing its report on June 9, 2004. It recommended formal recognition by Congress for Guam’s suffering and loyalty.110 The proposed monetary compensation was greater than what Underwood had suggested in his bills: $25,000 to the immediate survivors of Guamanians who died because of the Japanese occupation; $12,000 for those who suffered at the hands of the Japanese and still were living in 1990; and the establishment of a foundation to fund World War II Loyalty Scholarships.111
Underwood’s successor, Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, worked to implement the commission’s recommendations. In an effort to enact the report’s findings, former Delegate Blaz testified before the House Resources Committee in 2004. In a voice described as “booming at times and choked with emotion,” he appealed to his former colleagues: “If we are fellow Americans, the time is now. If we are yours, you should take us as your own. The time has come.”112
Beginning with the 109th Congress, Delegate Bordallo repeatedly proposed a bill to provide restitution for Guamanian war claims. Titled the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act, the legislation passed the House during the 110th and 111th Congresses, but failed to become law.113 At a 2009 hearing held by the House Armed Services Committee, testimony by Guamanian Delegates and Guam’s residents highlighted the harrowing stories of survivors.114 After years of consideration, Congress included the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. President Barack Obama signed it into law in late December 2016.115
Congress Recognizes APA History
Until relatively recently, so little was known about the history of Asian Pacific Americans within the institution of Congress that, at the press conference announcing the creation of CAPAC, reporters stumped the newly installed chairman, Norman Mineta, when they asked him who the first Asian-American Member was or how many total had served on Capitol Hill. “We have to write our own history,” Mineta remarked.116
The 1990s and early 2000s marked a period of remembrance and reflection as long-standing historical narratives about the United States’ century-long role as a Pacific power were supplanted by more complex and nuanced interpretations. In concert with federal efforts to memorialize internment and the legacies of World War II discussed in the previous section of this book, these new perspectives often illuminated the experiences and pivotal contributions of Asian and Pacific Americans to the national storyline.
As the centennial of the downfall of the Hawaiian monarchy approached, people began paying greater attention to the violent transfer of power in 1893 and the key role of U.S. sugar planters, financiers, and missionaries in the overthrow. In 1992, during the 102nd Congress (1991–1993), Senator Daniel Akaka first introduced a measure that acknowledged U.S. complicity in the rebellion and issued an apology to Native Hawaiians. The bill eventually worked its way through both chambers in the following Congress. On October 27, 1993, after little debate, the resolution (S.J. Res. 19) passed the Senate, 65 to 34. Less than a month later, the House passed the joint resolution, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law in late November.117
Senators Akaka and Inouye both lamented the nature of the kingdom’s toppling and the damage the overthrow caused to the indigenous population; yet, the resolution also highlighted the native peoples’ “determination to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territory, and their cultural identity.” While carefully refraining from establishing precedent or labeling Native Hawaiians definitively as Native Americans, it noted that the centennial marked a timely moment for the United States to “acknowledge the historic significance of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, [and] to express its deep regret to the Native Hawaiian people.”118
Remembrance found expression in other venues, too. As the World War II generation slowly passed from the scene in the 1990s and early 2000s, momentum built to commemorate the contributions of groups whose service had never formally been recognized, including the Tuskegee Airmen, Native-American Code Talkers, and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). During the 111th Congress (2009–2011), California Senator Barbara Boxer introduced a resolution (S. 1055) to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Japanese- American army units of the European theater, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, as well as the Military Intelligence Servicethat had Japanese-American soldiers serving in the Pacific theater. Since the earliest Congresses, the Congressional Gold Medal has been the highest national expression of appreciation for a recipient’s distinguished achievements and contributions. After both houses of Congress swiftly passed Boxer’s resolution, President Obama signed it into law on September 23, 2010.119
Congressional leaders presented the Congressional Gold Medal to veterans from the three units at a ceremony in the Capitol on November 2, 2011. Representatives from each group accepted the award, including Senator Inouye, a veteran of the 442nd and himself a Medal of Honor recipient. Wearing a dark navy blazer with a 442nd patch sewn on the breast pocket, Inouye recalled that, while officials first believed Japanese Americans “were unfit to put on a uniform,” they were determined “to show their patriotism.” He added, “This has been a long journey” to achieving recognition.120 The Congressional Gold Medal toured the United States in 2013 and 2014 and was displayed in seven cities. It remains on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, as part of “The Price of Freedom” exhibit.121
85Congressional Record, House, 109th Cong., 2nd sess. (9 May 2006): 2317.
86Immigration Act of 1990, Public Law 101-649, 104 Stat. 4978 (1990); Park, “H1-B Visa”: 475–478; see also Lee, The Making of Asian America: 286.
87Park, “H1-B Visa”: 477.
89“Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Calls for Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” 19 September 2006, The Asian Reporter (Portland, OR): 1. Immigration remained high on the CAPAC agenda during the Obama administration, too. See Daniel Newhauser, “Obama Will Meet Asian Caucus,” 4 August 2011, Roll Call: n.p.
90“Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” CAPAC Immigration Task Force, accessed 23 June 2016, http://capac-chu.house.gov/issue/immigration.
91Asian Population: 2010: 6, 7.
92Two national surveys have been conducted within the past decade explicitly to study Asian American political participation. The National Asian American Survey (NAAS), conducted in 2008, was published by the Russell Sage Foundation in 2011. The Pew Research Center conducted their Asian-American Survey in 2012, published it in June 2012, and updated it online in April 2013. These two studies represent some of the latest and most detailed work on Asian American political participation and political attitudes.
93The NAAS was published as Janelle Wong, S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Taeku Lee, and Jane Junn, eds., Asian American Political Participation: Emerging Constituents and Their Political Identities (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2011): 55.
94Wong et al., Asian American Political Participation: 132, table 4.1.
95Alison McSherry, “Asian-Americans See Gains in Political Clout,” 17 March 2009, Roll Call: n.p.
96Tucker, “The Possible Dream.”
97Ralph Frammolino, “Colleagues Leave Ferguson Adrift: Internment,” 30 August 1990, Los Angeles Times: 1.
98Lee, The Making of Asian America: 386.
99Matt Bai, “The Way We Live Now: 10-28-01: Encounter; Hyphenated Americans,” 28 October 2001, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/28/magazine/the-way-we-live-now-10-28-01-encounter-hyphenated-americans.html (accessed 2 August 2016).
100Associated Press, “Key Lawmaker Defends WWII Internment of Japanese,” 6 February 2003, Chicago Tribune: 14; Janet Hook, “The Nation; Internment Remarks by Lawmaker Anger Peers,” 7 February 2003, Los Angeles Times: A17.
101Matt Apuzzo, “After Missteps, U.S. Tightens Rules for Espionage Cases,” 26 April 2016, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/27/us/after-missteps-us-tightens-rules-for-national-security-cases.html (accessed 1 August 2016). On Wen Ho Lee, see Dan Stober and Ian Hoffman, A Convenient Spy: Wen Ho Lee and the Politics of Nuclear Espionage (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001).
102Leibowitz, Defining Status: 323–324.
103See, for example, Guam Restitution Act, H.R. 2041, 104th Cong. (1995); Guam War Restitution Act, H.R. 2200, 105th Cong. (1997). Senator Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii also introduced similar bills in the Senate in the 104th and 105th Congresses (1995–1999).
104Steve Limtiaco, “Guam War Reparation Bill Stalls,” 12 July 1999, Pacific Daily News (Guam): A2; Steve Limtiaco, “Congress Yet to Hear Guam Bills,” 27 October 2000, Pacific Daily News (Guam): A1.
105Limtiaco, “Guam War Reparation Bill Stalls.”
106The commission consisted of two members selected by the Secretary of Interior and one each by the U.S. President, Guam’s governor, and Guam’s Delegate. Limtiaco, “Congress Yet to Hear Guam Bills.”
107Congressional Record, House, 107th Cong., 1st sess. (13 March 2001): H849–H850; Robert Underwood, “Legislature Must Step Up for War Reparations,” 1 August 2004, Pacific Daily News (Guam): A14; Robert Underwood, “Ben Blaz Deserved to be a Commission Member,” 26 October 2003, Pacific Daily News (Guam): A16.
108Underwood, “Legislature Must Step Up for War Reparations”; Guam War Claims Review Commission Act, Public Law 107-333, 116 Stat. 2873 (2002).
109Mark-Alexander Pope, “Panel: Thousands Submitted Questionnaires,” 2 December 2003, Pacific Daily News (Guam): A3; Dionesis Tamondong, “Commission Traces History,” 8 December 2003, Pacific Daily News (Guam): A1.
110Victor Toves, “Is Alternate Path Needed to Settle War Claims?,” 29 September 2004, Pacific Daily News (Guam): A19; Guam War Claims Review Commission, “Report on the Implementation of the Guam Meritorious Claims Act of 1945” (June 2004): 79, https://www.chamorroroots.com/warclaimdocs/GuamWarClaimsReviewCommission/GWCRC_ Final_Report_060904.pdf (accessed 21 June 2016).
111Bernard Punzalan, “Guam World War II War Claims: A Legislative History,” Guampedia, accessed 16 June 2016, http://www.guampedia.com/guam-world-war-ii-war-claims-legislative-history/.
112Frank Oliveri, “Bush Official Says Little On Guam War Claims Report,” 22 July 2004, Honolulu Advertiser: A7.
113Delegate Bordallo’s bills passed the House as H.R. 1595 in the 110th Congress (2007–2009) and H.R. 44 in the 111th Congress (2009–2011). H.R. 1595 was proposed during the 109th Congress (2005–2007) but was not voted on.
114Hearing before the House Committee on Armed Services, Assessing the Guam War Claims Process, 111th Cong., 1st sess. (2 December 2009).
115Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno, “House Passes War Reparations for Guam,” 20 May 2016, Pacific Daily News (Guam): A3; National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, Public Law 114-328, 130 Stat. 2000 (2016).
116Broder and Cooper, “Politics: Asian Pacific Caucus.”
117Congressional Record, Senate, 103rd Cong., 1st sess. (27 October 1993): 26423–26429.
118S.J. Res. 19, 103rd Cong. (1993); Public Law 103-150, 107 Stat. 1510 (1993).
119For more on the history of Congressional Gold Medals, see Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, “Congressional Gold Medal Recipients,” http://history.house.gov/Institution/Gold-Medal/Gold-Medal-Recipients/.
120Martin Snapp, “Battlefield Exploits Earn Japanese-American Veterans the Congressional Gold Medal,” 10 November 2011, Oakland Tribune, http://www.eastbaytimes.com/columns/ci_19307182 (accessed 1 August 2016); Gregg K. Kakesako, “Congress Honors Japanese-American Veterans,” 2 November 2011, Honolulu Star-Advertiser: n.p.
121“Congressional Gold Medal Tour around Seven Cities,” 20 September 2012, North American Post (Seattle, WA): 2. A digital exhibition focusing on the medal and featuring stories about Japanese-American soldiers was also created. See “Congressional Gold Medal Digital Exhibition to Highlight Nisei Soldier Stories,” 11 December 2014, North American Post (Seattle, WA): 3.