LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) brought her presidential campaign to a Vietnamese restaurant in Sin City’s growing Chinatown, touting her candidacy as a chance to elect the first Asian-American U.S. president.
Harris’s mother is Indian; her father is Jamaican. She was born in Oakland and raised in Canada before returning to the U.S. to attend Howard University.
Nevada will be the third state to cast its votes in the Democratic Party presidential primary in 2020, with its caucus scheduled for Feb. 22 — just over a week after the New Hampshire primary.
The event was hosted by One APIA Nevada, a local nonprofit organization “that advocates for policies empowering everyday Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans.” The community is small but growing, and becoming politically influential.
Harris began her remarks by noting the importance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and reminded the audience that she was also the first South Asian U.S. Senator.
She also criticized President Donald Trump’s new immigration policy, which he announced earlier in the day, calling it “short-sighted” and criticizing its proposal to shift priority in immigration from family unification to a merit-based system. She objected to “creating hierarchies among immigrants.”
Harris then took questions from local community leaders.
“I intend to be very active, and very vocal, in fighting for every vote, in particular the Asian vote,” she declared, saying she wanted to be a role model for Asian immigrants in encouraging more of them to run for public office.
Asked by a member of the audience what differentiated her from the other candidates, and why she would win, Harris said that she had “a proven track record of leadership,” and was not just “somebody who can give a beautiful speech.”
Harris also stressed her unique cultural identity as a qualification for office: “It is also, I think, important at this moment in time that we have leaders who … understand, fundamentally, in our core, in our hearts, that the vast majority of us have more in common than what separates us.”
She said there were “powerful forces that are trying to sow hate and division among us.”
Responding to a question about immigration reform, Harris referred to her record as a prosecutor in California, saying she had urged local authorities to ignore policies that criminalized “non-criminal behavior” among undocumented immigrants.
One woman asked Harris if she would commit to wearing traditional Indian garb at her inauguration, were she to become president. Harris politely demurred, saying she had to win first.
Duy Nguyen, executive director of One APIA Nevada, told Breitbart News that Harris’s candidacy could be “historic — or ‘herstoric’.” He stressed that Asian-Americans were not single-issue voters, and that his group focused on four basic issue areas — education, immigration, health, and workforce development. Reacting to Trump’s new immigration policy, Nguyen said: “We want the administration to work to bring communities together and not to divide communities. It looks as if the administration is pitting one versus another.”
There is at least one other candidate with Asian heritage in the Democratic field — namely, entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Former president Barack Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia and had an Indonesian stepfather but was not of Asian ancestry himself.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.