Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has aroused anger from Filipino American and other Asian Pacific American leaders, including elected officials, with remarks identifying the Philippines as a terrorist state.

In a speech on Aug. 4 in Portland, Maine, Trump included the Philippines on a list of countries he said had sent immigrants who had plotted to kill Americans, according to The Washington Post.

“We’re letting people come in from terrorist nations that shouldn’t be allowed because you can’t vet them,” he said. “There’s no way of vetting them. You have no idea who they are. This could be the great Trojan horse of all time.”

Assemblymember Rob Bonta
Assemblymember Rob Bonta

He cited a case in which “an immigrant from Afghanistan who later applied for and received U.S. citizenship [and] an illegal permanent resident from the Philippines were convicted for plotting to join Al Qaeda and the Taliban in order to kill as many Americans as possible … Hillary Clinton wants to have them come in by the hundreds of thousands.”

Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), chair of California’s Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, said in a statement on Aug. 8, “The latest salvo of divisive and hateful rhetoric being spewed by Donald Trump demonstrates yet again that he is unfit to serve as president. As an immigrant from the Philippines and as the first and only Filipino American elected to the California State Legislature, I’m extremely proud of the contributions Filipino Americans have made to America, from fighting heroically in our Armed Forces to igniting the struggle for farm worker rights, and the list goes on.

“Trump’s call to restrict immigration and tourism from the Philippines doesn’t represent the America my mother believed in when she made the journey to this country decades ago. It doesn’t represent the America that my 1.5 million Filipino American brothers and sisters in California know. And it’s definitely not the America I want my children to grow up in. Trump’s sweeping, irresponsible and vitriolic pronouncements on race have no place in our America.”

In Daly City, San Mateo County, where at least a third of the population is of Filipino descent, City Councilmember Mike Guingona told The San Francisco Chronicle, “For someone to make such a broad and sweeping statement without any evidence is unacceptable.”

Rep. Mike Honda
Rep. Mike Honda

Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), chair emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, commented, “Build a wall. Ban Muslims. Now: ban Filipinos. It’s another ignorant idea from the racist bully who claims he’ll make America great again. America is already great without your ideas.

“During World War II, Filipino soldiers answered President [Franklin] Roosevelt’s call to action, and fought bravely, and without hesitation, beside our U.S. servicemen, and under the U.S. flag. Clearly, this kind of bravery is inconceivable to this ignoramus. I’ve been fighting for decades for these Filipino veterans to get their due respect, to be reunited with their U.S. family members, and to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. Their sacrifice and service, like every one of our servicemen, must be revered, not renounced.

“Our nation thrives on diversity, community and respect, not division, fear and intolerance. This hateful rhetoric is what led my family and I to be interned. It takes political courage to stand up to fear, and this latest idea exemplifies the ultimate political cowardice.”

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles), who was born in Taiwan, said, “Donald Trump has now expanded his bigoted attacks to include Asian Pacific Americans. Trump announced at a rally in Maine that he is increasing his ban on Muslims to include legal immigrants from ‘terrorist nations.’ Some of the examples he cites include legal immigrants from the Philippines and Pakistan.

“As an immigrant from the Asia Pacific region, I find Trump’s newly expanded proposal even more offensive. But it is more than just offensive, it is dangerous. Trump’s racist thinking — ‘there’s no way of vetting’ legal immigrants — is exactly the thinking that caused one of the darkest periods in American history: the internment of over 100,000 Americans because they happened to be of Japanese descent. And for the record, Trump has stated he might have supported the internment.

“Trump’s expanded xenophobic proposal also weakens U.S. national security. America is strong because of our diversity, not in spite of it. Having served on active duty, I know that our military is the greatest in the world because we don’t care what color you are, who you love, or what religion you practice. We just care if you can do your duty to our nation with excellence.

“Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims dishonored America. By now doubling down and expanding that proposal to include Asian Pacific Americans, Trump again shows that he is unfit to hold the highest office in our land. Trump should have apologized to Muslim Americans long ago. Now he needs to also apologize to Asian Pacific Americans.”

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) added, “Donald Trump’s latest rant suggesting we ban immigration from countries like the Philippines that are helping us fight terrorism is another example of his reckless rhetoric that’s based on fear and division and further proves he is unfit to lead our country. For generations, Filipinos have made the United States their home. It is their vibrant culture, hard work, and strong values that have enriched our communities and made this country great, not the ignorant, racist bigotry of Donald Trump.”

Hillary for America’s National Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Outreach Director Jason Tengco also weighed in: “Donald Trump’s latest proposal to renew his call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., as well as ban immigration from countries like the Philippines, shows once again that he is temperamentally unfit and unqualified to be president. As a proud Filipino American, I am deeply concerned that families like mine who immigrated from the Philippines would have been the target of Trump’s reckless and baseless policy proposals. They, and many other immigrants, have made valuable contributions to society, and make our nation stronger.

“Hillary Clinton has a plan to fight for comprehensive immigration reform and to reunite families, knowing that Filipinos have some of the longest visa wait times: up to 23 years in many cases. Hillary knows that America is a country of immigrants, and understands that we are a stronger country when we come together.”

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who is of Filipino, Spanish, Native Hawaiian and Japanese descent, spoke as a surrogate for Trump at a presidential election forum held in Las Vegas on Aug. 12 by the Asian American Journalists Association and APIA Vote. During his speech, he addressed the controversy:

“I want to clarify, first of all, some comments that Mr. Trump made about the Philippines, and being Filipino, those issues are near and dear to my heart. What Mr. Trump was trying to communicate — and I have full authority to make this clarification — is that he welcomes law-abiding Filipinos who want to come and have a better life and better opportunities, whether they want to live here or go back to the Philippines. Send money back to their families there. He welcomes them.”

Reyes added that Trump was talking about terrorists who “do exist in the Philippines, and there’s no one here from the Philippines who can dispute that. They know that that exists.”

Other speakers at the forum were former President Bill Clinton on behalf of his wife, Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein.

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  1. Most Filipinos that immigrate to the U.S. are outstanding law abiding citizens. Just take a look in almost every hospital in the U.S. and you will find many Filipina women in the hospital’s nursing staff. The Filipino nurses are good at what they do and are in high demand because of their work ethic and dedication for quality care of patients. These and most Filipino immigrants are not a threat for terrorist activities. There are, however, certain areas of the Philippines that can be considered at high risk of an abundance of terrorist and Islamic militant groups. There are four main groups that can be considered Islamic militant or a terrorist organization that may have ties with Al-Qaeda. The Islamic groups are The Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf. The other is the Communist Party of the Philippines group that call themselves the New People’s Army. The Islamic terrorist/militant groups are mainly situated in the southern portion of the Philippines on the island of Mindanao and the surrounding smaller islands. The United States Embassy – Department of State has even warned U.S. citizens to avoid these areas due to the high potential of kidnappings of American citizens for ransom.

    So is there truth to what Donald Trump said about the Philippines? Absolutely!
    Are all Filipinos who immigrate to the U.S. terrorists? Absolutely NOT!
    Should there be scrutiny for immigrants from the Philippines? There already is, just not as much as Trump would hope for.

    In my opinion, your interpretation of what Donald Trump had said in regards to terrorism and an isolated incident of a Filipino American are that of being a proud Filipino American and being sensitive to what you might construe as profiling. Although ISIS is confined to the middle east, Al-Qaeda does not discriminate countries on which they can network. It is obvious that our governments system of screening would be terrorists is not efficient enough. So rather than taking offense to what D. Trump said about the Philippines and Filipinos, how would you stop terrorists from filtering into this great country of ours? Your comments are personal, but not helpful. You should focus more on problem solving then your venting your sensitivity. At least Trump’s intention of looking out for a safer America is something our present government has been inadequate of doing. He’s good at offending people, but why would he intentionally try to be offensive if he wants the vote of America? Sometimes the truth hurts and sometimes interpretations can be misconstrued, as with the case of Mr. Trump.

    For the record, I am neither pro Donald Trump nor pro Hillary Clinton. I am, however, pro Philippines and Filipinos.

  2. Are there people in the Philippines who believe Sharia laws should supercede the laws of the Philippines? If so should these people be allowed to immigrate to the U.S. and feel Sharia supercedes American laws? If you believe in religious freedom how do you reconcile the two? Trump believes that until we can reconcile between the two and followers of Sharia can be identified, there has to be restrictive immigration for the safety of all Americans. Until the people who make the laws can determine how, can you blame anyone who wants to error on the side of caution when American lives are at risk? Did the government get blamed when the perpetrators of 9/11 carry out their deeds? Do we question how Islamic terrorists were allowed into Europe to do their deeds?