Sunday, February 13, 2011

Asian-Americans discuss redistricting

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Source: Richmond Times Dispatch
By Michael Martz
Published: February 12, 2011
http://www2.timesdispatch.com


Virginia's Asian-American community is looking to make the most of its increasing presence as the state redraws political districts.

Fresh from an annual rally at the General Assembly, Asian-American organizations talked at a meeting of a gubernatorial advisory board on Friday about what political redistricting could mean for their communities, which now make up 5.5 percent of the state's population.

"It's time that we work together and make ourselves well-represented," said Genie Giao Nguyen, chair of Voice of Vietnamese Americans, based in Fairfax County. "We need government to pay attention to our community of interest."

The discussion arose at a meeting of the Virginia Asian Advisory Board that featured a presentation on redistricting based on new population numbers released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Asian population — now at about 440,000 in the state — has grown by more than 68 percent since the last census.

The trend is especially strong in the suburbs of the state's Urban Crescent, including Henrico County, where Asian-Americans have topped 20,000, about 6.5 percent of the county's population.

Redistricting also is likely be part of the discussion today at the Asian Pacific American Policy Forum at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Henrico. The forum begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m.

Economic development and immigration issues are the main topics at the forum, which will feature a speech by Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade James Cheng.

While the immigration debate has focused on the Hispanic population, particularly in Northern Virginia, Asian-Americans have a stake in the outcome, too, said Eric L. Jensen, chairman of the Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans in Virginia. "We have a role in that. We need to be aware of it."

Jenson's organization has joined for six years with the Virginia Asian Advisory Board and the Asian American Society of Central Virginia for the policy forum in Richmond, which this year also included the Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce.

For the Virginia Asian Advisory Board, reporting to Gov. Bob McDonnell, the principal focus on Friday was jobs and international investment.

"If you have an event relevant to business and job creation, I'll be there," promised Jimmy Rhee, assistant secretary of commerce and trade.

However, some board members said the census numbers could represent an opportunity for a more visible presence in the state's political process.

Unlike the African-American community, Asians "really haven't had too many candidates," said Angela Chiang, a member of both the state advisory board and the central Virginia association board. "By and large, we are not voting for our own people."

At the same time, board member Andrew Ko cautioned, "We are a nonpartisan board. We need to be removed from the politics of it."


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