What Jeb Bush Really Said to Asian Americans

Will we always be the perpetual foreigner whose vote doesn’t matter?

This week, in an unexpected but unsurprising turn of events, Asian Americans find ourselves in the political spotlight after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush clarified his usage of the term, “anchor baby” to refer largely to Asian immigrants as opposed to Latinos.

His “clarification” betrays a reality that many of us are already aware of: Asian Americans are close to invisible, politically, and we’re seen as perpetual foreigners regardless of our relationships to our country.

Just last week, we addressed recent attacks on birthright citizenship. Hearing old arguments against birthright citizenship used to incite anti-immigrant sentiment, we were reminded that none of the fears and prejudices demonstrated by those arguments are new to our community — even though our lived experiences (from the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act to continued discrimination against Asian Americans at the polls) have largely been forgotten or glossed over.

Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the nation, naturalizing in the least expected places, like the U.S. South and the Midwest. Still, Asian Americans are the least likely of all groups to be contacted by political candidates. Instead we find ourselves in situations like this one: only mentioned in an attempt not to offend another minority group.

Regardless of what group any political candidate is seeking to call out using derogatory terms like “anchor babies,” all that can be achieved through such language is just that: isolating immigrants. And pointing the finger at one community of color to curry favor with another simply won’t work when we are all seeking solutions to the real problems with our immigration system — fixes to a system that keeps families apart or afraid.

For anyone who needs proof that our community is paying attention to the national discussion, turn to Twitter. An outpouring of responses to Bush’s comment show that Asian Americans care about immigration, care about our country, and care what our representatives have to say about us.

The hashtag #MyAsianAmericanStory is being used to share the lived experiences and many contributions of Asian Americans in our country who are listening to the conversation around us — and ready to change it. Have you shared your story yet?