Largest Asian Pacific American delegation to U.S. Congress

Asian Pacific American voters rally for comprehensive immigration reform (Getty Images)

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – The largest contingent of Asian Pacific Americans legislators ever will make a strong presence when the U.S. House of Representatives convenes for the 113th Congress in January.

All Democrats, the representatives are led by returning legislators Mike Honda, Doris Matsui, and Judy Chu of California and Filipino-American Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of Virginia.

Another member could join the group when the American-Indian doctor Ami Bera prevails in his close race with incumbent Republican Dan Lungren in a Sacramento, California district that still undecided.

“The diversity of this incoming class represents everything that we’ve worked to create,”  said Honda, whose Silicon Valley district has just become home to the largest concentration of Asian Pacific Americans in the country.

“I’m thrilled to see Congress more diverse than the day I started. Congress is slowly, but surely, starting to look more American,” Honda said.

Floyd Mori, the incoming president of the Asian Pacific American Institute of Congressional Studies (APAICS), said the election “broadens the pipeline for the future participation by new candidates” from the community.

“The result is the largest caucus of Asian American and Pacific Islander members in any single congressional session, reflecting the increasing political power of the fastest growing demographic group,” Mori said.

According to the 2010 census, Asian Pacific Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, surpassing Latinos. With about 18 million nationwide, they comprise about six percent of the U.S. population.

To equitably represent the community in the U.S. Congress, however, at least 31 members should be elected. Presently, there are 11.

For minorities, the 2012 elections produced several milestones.

A total of 30 Latino congressional candidates were elected across the country. Also elected were four Arab-Americans and one Caribbean-American.

Mark Takano, a Riverside, California Democrat of Japanese heritage – his parents were interned during World War II – will become the first openly gay person of color to serve in the House.

“This is the next natural step for a lot of us growing up who were trained to become doctors or engineers,” said Bera, whose parents emigrated from India in the 1950s, on the cusp of the largest immigration wave in American history. “Clearly, this is a very important juncture for us as a nation.”

Chu, the first Chinese-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress, and head of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said she is thrilled to work with a larger contingent of APA representatives.

“Many have broken barriers and established historic firsts for their states and for their communities, and it moves me to see our nation’s elected leaders beginning to look more like the diverse constituencies that they represent,” Chu said in a statement.

“I am honored to chair CAPAC during this period of tremendous political momentum, and I look forward to working with all of my new colleagues in the 113th Congress to move our nation forward,”  she said.

In addition to Honda and Chu, the returning House members are  Rep. Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii, and Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan  of CNMI.

The most celebrated winners, however, are women: Mazie Hirono of Hawaii,  Grace Meng of New York and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Hirono will be the first Asian-American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. Duckworth and Meng will be the first Asian-Americans to represent their states.

Follow Bert Eljera on Twitterr @vegaspinoy60 and on Facebook at facebook.com/BertEljera

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