LAS VEGAS — Bearing in-language campaign signs and chanting “Let’s Go Joe,” some 300 supporters flocked to a campaign event on Tuesday, February 18 for former Vice President and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden as he made another appeal to Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters in the city.
Ahead of the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, Tuesday night’s event was organized by the Biden for President Nevada AAPI Leadership Council and AAPI Victory Fund at Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant where the vice president spoke for roughly 13 minutes. Biden previously held an event at this restaurant last summer.
Despite the former vice president’s performance in the Iowa and New Hampshire contests, the campaign is confident that Nevada’s results will be more in Biden’s favor as it has focused on outreach to voters of color in the state, particularly in Clark County.
“The idea that we’ve decided the nomination before we’ve heard from all those folks, all of you, is absolutely ridiculous,” Biden said, noting that the first two contests did not reflect voters in the AAPI, Latino and Black communities.
Biden continued his remarks by touting the Obama administration’s strides in appointing the most number of AAPI judges and women in government positions, re-establishing the White House Initiative on AAPIs, and signing the Affordable Care Act into law.
“And we finally provided compensation for Filipino World War II veterans, which was long, long overdue,” he said to roaring applause.
Before leaving office, President Barack Obama signed a measure in December 2016 that honors Filipino and Filipino-American World War II veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal.
With immigration one of the hottest topics and AAPIs largely left out of the national conversation, Biden reminded the audience that the Latino community didn’t only benefit from Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He briefly touched on his plan that would “legalize DREAMers and put a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented people” and also expand the number of visas allotted each year.
“We should be able to increase to 3 million people who come for family reunification…It makes no sense. This is a big, strong, vibrant country. The idea we can’t reunite more families is absolutely bizarre,” he said.
Though Biden did not spend too much time attacking President Donald Trump, he painted that his presidency would restore “decency” to the office.
“I’m going to make sure we show that we choose hope over fear. We choose science over fiction…We choose compassion over cruelty and most importantly, we choose truth over lies,” he said in closing. “We are going to take back this country, lead the world again and become the envy of the world once again.”
After his speech, the vice president shook hands and took photos with supporters as they exited and were reminded by campaign volunteers to vote in the caucus. Next door, the Chinatown Plaza Mall was a site for early voting, which ended on Tuesday night.
Super PAC AAPI Victory Fund, which endorsed Biden last month, said it is planning to spend $2 million for voter outreach during this election cycle.
Filipina American businesswoman and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis shared her immigrant story and expressed disappointment in Trump’s threat to “make America white again,” she said.
“That’s why we are all campaigning for Joe Biden to replace the 45h president,” she said. “Together with Joe Biden, we will make America, America again.”
Biden’s campaign announced its Nevada AAPI Leadership Council in late January, which has been tasked with mobilizing voters in the community ahead of the caucus on Saturday.
One of the campaign’s council members is Fil-Am Kate Torres-Recto, a 28-year resident of Las Vegas and local community leader.
“We’ve been phone banking for the last two weeks to make sure people get out and vote in the caucus,” Torres-Recto told the Asian Journal. “We’ve seen how the AAPI vote is strong and has helped turn Nevada blue.”
Torres-Recto said they had about three days to organize Tuesday’s event and invited over 400 guests.
“Biden has the most experience out of any of the Democratic candidates,” she said. “He may not be the youngest, but he can deliver and has a proven track record during his time as vice president. We can’t put a new person who is just learning the laws and how things are done.”
The 21-member AAPI council also includes Fil-Ams Doris Bauer and Loni Andal, who are active in local community organizations.
Andal, who was a long-time Republican until Trump took office, said she changed her affiliation to a “proud Democrat” after “being so embarrassed by Trump’s actions.”
“The man’s got passion in that he cares about people,” Andal said of Biden in an interview. “He couldn’t work side-by-side with Obama without having that family feeling and empathy for minorities and knowing that they count. As Biden said in his speech, this election is very important — not just for the Asian community, but for all minorities.”
Biden supporters who also gave remarks at the event included former U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke and Rep. Dina Titus — who represents Nevada’s 1st District that includes key AAPI areas like Chinatown and Maryland Parkway which is home to several Filipino businesses.
With attention placed on Las Vegas this week, Democratic contenders have been courting the growing AAPI community. In addition to Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren toured businesses in Chinatown on Sunday, while California Tom Steyer had a roundtable discussion at a dim sum restaurant on Tuesday afternoon.
“Especially being from the Philippines, we never had the right to vote freely so that’s why I tell other Filipinos to vote. It’s the right we’ve been fighting for. We came here to have those rights. You can’t sit back and say ‘We’ve got a terrible president’ and not take any action. That’s not the American way,” Andal said.