Asia American leaders discuss civic engagement

Updated: 2016-10-28 03:38

By China Daily in Houston(

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Asian Americans are the fastest-growing demographic in the nation, and their political involvement is becoming more and more important, as evidenced by a Tuesday discussion hosted by the Asia Society Texas Center.

Asia American leaders discuss civic engagement

From left: Panelists Vinh Ho, Christine Chen and Mustafa Tameez discuss the importance of Asian-American civic engagement, with Miya Shay moderating at the Asia Society Texas Center on Tuesday. [Tiffany Wang for China Daily]

The event was organized in collaboration with Asian/Pacific American Heritage Association and the Organization of Chinese American-Greater Houston.

Local ABC News affiliate reporter Miya Shay moderated the three panelists, which included Christine Chen, executive and founding director of APIAVote, Vin Ho, a local managing attorney, and Mustafa Tameez, founder and managing director of Outreach Strategists.

Chen, who flew in from DC for the discussion, talked about her excitement at the increased interest and mobilization of voters of Asian descent in response to the upcoming election. She compared the increase in early voting in Texas to the nation-wide increase.

Vinh Ho, who is also the director of the Immigration Initiative at the Houston College of Law, spoke about the dynamic of immigrants and refugees and the importance of helping them understand the system of laws and voting.

"As they start to be educated on how the process works, you don't have to be the lone person doing it. We have to educate our own communities," Ho said.

Mustafa Tameez mentioned that people tend to overlook the quick growth of the Asian community in Texas, adding that one out of five people in Fort Bend County is of Asian descent and one out of three in Sugarland.

"If you look at the 2000 census to the 2010 census, the Asian community grew by 67 percent," Tameez said. "You see that leadership build, because the population is building."

Asked what draws Asians to the voting booth, the panelists agreed that the key to getting Asians involved with civic engagement is family. They also expressed optimism at expecting a record turnout from voting millennials.

"A lot of it is within your own family and your own immediate network. Bringing your own child to the polls, or the reverse, having the child taking the parent," Chen said.

The panel wrapped up by taking questions and urging the audience to get their immediate communities out to vote.

Cecil Fong, president of OCA-Greater Houston, said the divisiveness of the presidential campaign made this topic very timely.

"As Asian Americans, we are the highest in terms of education achievement, but we are the lowest in terms of civic engagement," Fong said. "It's good to hear from these distinguished panelists about why that is and what we can do to reverse the trend, because if Asian Americans are not represented and we're not at the table, we lose our voice."

Tiffany Wang contributed to the story