Kamala Harris issues a manifesto addressing concerns of Asian and South Asian Americans

Kamala Harris with her mother, Shyamala, at a Chinese New Year parade in 2007.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Devi Harris, seems to have appeased the angst of the Asian-American community, hitherto peeved over her perceived indifference towards the largest Asian American Political Action Committee’s efforts to engage with her on behalf of the community, along with other presidential candidates.

Harris — of African-American and Indian-American heritage — did not attend the recent interaction the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Victory Fund put together with presidential candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar on Nov. 12.

She was also absent from a similar interaction held earlier in California — Harris’ home state — with several other candidates including entrepreneur Andrew Yang, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and billionaire Tom Steyer.

However, her timely and comprehensive platform, provided to the AAPI Victory Fund, addressing the community’s key domestic issues, particularly on immigration, may have served as a panacea and alleviated the community’s concerns, which its hierarchy had made clear in various statements and social media postings.

In its preamble titled “Kamala’s Plan of Action for Asian Pacific Islander Americans,” the campaign platform said, “There are over 24 million Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the United States, and collectively, the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) community is the fastest growing demographic group in the country.”

The campaign declared — emphasizing the all-important family reunification provision for all Asian-American communities — that “as president, Harris will clear the family visa backlog as part of her plan for a fair and just immigration system.”

It pointed out that most of the immigration backlogs are for family-sponsored applicants (314,000 from the Philippines, 299,000 from India, 232,000 each from Vietnam and China) and that “more than 40 percent of individuals stuck in the family visa backlog or approximately 1.5 million people are from Asia.”

The campaign also said that as of 2018, 95 percent of the over 825,000 individuals in line for employment-based green cards affected by the existing per-country caps are primarily from China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam, and thus, “The vast and growing employment-based visa backlog has an outsized impact on the APIA community.

“At the same time, demand for immigrant workers shows no signs of abating. For six consecutive years, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received so many petitions that it has hit the annual cap for H-1B visas (for high-skilled workers) within five business days of opening the filing period,” it pointed out.

The manifesto also said, “If elected, Harris will immediately reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and expand DACA by eliminating the requirement that DREAMers apply before they turn 31 years old, raising the age at time of entry from 15 years old and under to 17 years old and under.”

The platform also unambiguously and unequivocally added that three of 10 Muslim Americans are Asian, and “Harris as president would immediately rescind Muslim ban,” and also the “public charge rule and the proclamation denying immigrants a visa unless they have ‘approved health insurance’ or can prove they have ‘the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.’”

Harris’s campaign also vowed to dismantle language barriers to enable access to services and the right to vote and would also ensure that programs that receive federal funds are accessible to individuals with limited English proficiency.

In a tweet coinciding with the release of her platform, Harris said, “The Asian & Pacific Islander American community is close to my heart. We make up a rich tapestry of ethnicities, languages, and cultures. Today, I put out my APIA platform to ensure all have equal opportunity, access to justice, and human rights.” And, her campaign chimed in, “Kamala believes we must do more to eliminate discriminatory backlogs and protect immigrant workers so they can stay in our country and continue to contribute to the economy.”

It added, “That’s why she’ll push overdue reforms to visa programs, including for high-skilled and low-skilled workers, to streamline the immigrant labor force and stimulate entrepreneurship.”

The campaign said, “Her Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, for example, would lift existing per-country caps for employment-based green cards and also raise per-country caps for family-sponsored green cards from seven percent to 15 percent.”

Echoing the sentiments in her tweet, it noted, “As a member of the APIA community, Kamala understands firsthand the unique and wide-ranging concerns facing the rich tapestry of ethnicities, languages, and cultures that form this diverse community. Kamala knows our country is stronger for this diversity and will fight for equal opportunity, access to justice, and human rights for all API Americans.”

Shekar Narasimhan, founder and co-chair of the AAPI Victory Fund and a longtime Democratic Party activist and fund-raiser, hailed the release of her manifesto and told India Abroad, “We had provided her a briefing book and engaged with her and told her that we are willing to give her experts on any arena she wants of the issues important to our community.

“So, she has set a template and now we can go to other campaigns and say, ‘Guess what guys, don’t rethink it, we agree with it (Harris’s manifesto), and here are the things we like to see,” he added.

Narasimhan said that now, “perhaps, there is movement in the right direction,” with regard to Harris, and reiterated, “We want all the candidates talking to us and saying that they have studied our community and they care about us. And, we are finding that to be the case.”

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