Former VP stresses power of AAPIs, calls for gun control after El Paso shooting
LAS VEGAS — While on his campaign tour through Las Vegas, on Saturday, August 3, former Vice President and 2020 candidate Joseph R. Biden met with members of the Las Vegas Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community at Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant to share his campaign plans and promises.
Before Biden addressed the crowd of Las Vegas’ AAPI community leaders, U.S. Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) delivered remarks on the former vice president, and among Biden’s achievements, she noted that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 brought forth two key benefits for the AAPI community: the Veterans Equity Compensation Fund for Filipino World War II veterans and the “first-time funding” for AAPI health clinics.
“We owe him a debt of gratitude for that,” Titus said, introducing Biden to the applauding crowd.
Biden then met and shook hands with some of the attendees — which included some Nevada lawmakers — cheekily introducing himself as “Jill Biden’s husband.” Before discussing his campaign, Biden acknowledged the Walmart terrorist attack in El Paso, Texas that happened hours before.
“Before we begin, a somber note I apologize, but it can’t go without saying what just happened,” Biden told the crowd. “We don’t know much of the details right now but I can say with conviction: enough is enough is enough and it’s been enough for the past five years.”
The attack had been lodged by a single shooter who used a semi-automatic firearm to murder 20 people. Biden called for tighter federal gun laws including universal background checks for the sale of firearms. (In the 1990s as senator of Delaware Biden championed bills that prevented the manufacture and sales of certain assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, but they were not renewed after 10 years.)
“This is a sickness. This is well beyond anything we should be tolerating and the fact is we can beat the National Rifle Association (NRA), we can beat the gun manufacturers because I did it. There are answers to this, we can do this. One of my priorities as your president will be on Day 1 to go after [the NRA]. We’ve beat them before and we can beat them again.”
Going into his relationship with the AAPI community, Biden said, “In a sense I was raised politically by” renowned AAPI U.S. senators from Hawaii Daniel Inouye and the late Spark Matsunaga and he “learned early on the fact that what was going in the AAPI community we ignored for much, much too long.”
“The AAPI community has made enormous contributions to America, and the fact that you are the fastest growing group in this state and other parts of the country is really consequential,” the former vice president remarked, noting the resourcefulness of Asian immigrants who started businesses from the ground up.
Immigrants, Biden said, are the foundation of the United States, noting the similarities between ancestors’ decision to leave everything they knew in Ireland to move to the U.S. and families from Central America who are doing the same thing today.
“Folks, you’re the reason why we’re who we are. It is not a joke, it’s the god’s honest truth. What makes us the most unique country in the world is that we constantly remake ourselves, and that’s what we’re in the process of doing, making sure that the Asian American and Pacific Islander community is fully integrated into everything we do,” Biden said, who brought up the Obama administration’s efforts to compensate the more than 200,000 Filipino veterans who fought in World War II and their families.
Biden also brought up the plight of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and he noted that the Asian immigrant experience should not be left out of the national conversation on immigration reform.
“Most people think only about Latino immigrants when we talk about DREAMers and DACA, but the fact of the matter is that DACA offered opportunities to thousands AAPI DREAMers as well,” Biden said. “We need to fix our immigration system but we can’t leave behind certain communities living in constant fear. It’s not who we are.”
Leveraging his experience as vice president under President Barack Obama, Biden noted that he wants to restore the U.S. as a model of diplomacy and a country that works to strengthen alliances with other nations. He also made a case for diversity within the systems of power in the U.S. government, reminding the crowd of the volume of AAPI officials appointed under the Obama administration.
“We have great responsibilities and our country and administration should look like our people. It should look like who we are. We had more AAPI judges than all other administrations combined [and] more women than all other administrations. When you look at our administration, it looked like America and that’s critically important, especially at a time when this president is so engaging in such vile conduct in the way he talks about people,” Biden said, citing President Donald Trump’s controversial remarks on the black, Latino and Muslim communities.
Similar to the rest of the pool of Democrats looking to unseat Trump in 2020, Biden condemned the sitting president’s language, referencing Trump’s declaration that there were some “very fine people” at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia two years ago as well as the policies and proposals that limit the scope of opportunity for minorities.
“It’s not a question of whether we want to win or whether we can win. We have to win,” Biden said. “We can begin to become the country we thought we were and working our way towards.”
After months of “will he or won’t he” whispers among political pundits, Biden officially announced he was running for president on April 25, and since then, he’s held a steady lead in the polls.
As of Tuesday, August 6, Biden has a comfortable lead according to two polls: a poll from Quinnipiac puts Biden 11 points ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, and a poll from Politico/Morning Consult puts the former vice president 14 points ahead of Sanders.