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.”
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 (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, 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.