“There were some bad eggs, deporting them is not the answer”
An Orange County Republican from South Korea has been appointed to advise President Donald Trump on Asian American issues.
The move comes in response to South California’s Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese communities voicing their opposition against the government’s immigration policies.
Steel has been appointed as the co-chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which counselled the previous U.S. Presidents on Asian American issues.
10 of the 14 members had resigned when Trump was sworn in two years ago in opposition of his immigration policies. Steel is now one of the commissions current 12 members.
Although largely siding with Trump’s policies on the whole, Steel has stood against the president on policies targeting Asian immigrants. In 2018, she opposed the administration’s plan to deport thousands of Vietnamese refugees who had fled to the U.S. prior to 1995.
Steel argued that “deporting Vietnamese refugees who have committed crimes” should not be in the “same category” as “criminal illegal aliens.”
“There were some bad eggs,” Steel said. “Deporting them is not the answer.”
“There is never a good time to isolate and frighten a dependable percentage of one’s political base,” she continued. “But no time could be worse than now.”
4% of voters in Steel’s district are Vietnamese Americans, who are divided on the Republicans appointment.
“Michelle Steel was (one) of the earliest voices on the Republican side to take this position to safeguard Vietnamese Americans,” said Assemblyman Tyler Diep (R-Westminster), who emigrated from Vietnam with his parents in 1991. “There is not much else I can advise Supervisor Steel on because she is knowledgeable about the priorities of Vietnamese Americans.”
“While it’s heartening that she’s taken a stance against (Vietnamese refugee) deportations, my confidence wanes when I hear that she actively opposed sanctuary laws,” said Reshma Shamasunder, an official with the Los Angeles office of the civil rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
“Our hope is that she’ll listen to the public outcry and see the wrong pathway they’re moving down,” she added. “If they don’t, that creates fear for Asian communities.”
“[Steel’s] appointment was not necessarily a reflection of the community,” said Tammy Kim, co-founder of the Korean American Center in Irvine, which helps Korean immigrants apply for citizenship.
“It’s a great opportunity, but, from what I’ve seen, I don’t know whether she’ll truly seize it,” Kim continued. “I’m not placing a lot of hope.”