Why a Vice President Mike Pence is Bad News for AAPIs

Indiana governor and Trump running-mate, Mike Pence.
Indiana governor and Trump running-mate, Mike Pence. (Photo credit: ABC)

Hours ago, the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump confirmed weeks of political gossip with his announcement that he had chosen Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his general election running-mate.

I’ve already written at length about why Donald Trump’s fear-mongering and race-baiting has exacerbated this country’s hostility towards people of colour, and how his rhetoric will ultimately prove damaging for the Republican Party. In the meanwhile, however, people of colour will have to find a way to survive a general election that has popularized derogatory and racist remarksand open assault — towards non-White people. Today’s decision is by Trump is only more bad news, particularly for AAPI immigrants, women and LGBT individuals and other immigrants, LGBT folks, and other women of colour.

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. (Photo credit: Reuters)
GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. (Photo credit: Reuters)

Mike Pence first gained notoriety on conservative talk radio in the 1990’s — he styled himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf” — before running for office. He served as a Congressman representing Indiana’s 1st and 2nd districts for more than twelve years before being elected governor in 2013.

Throughout that career, Pence has made his stance on a variety of issues abundantly clear, and many of those positions are frightening for AAPIs.

Pence is vocally opposed to amnesty for undocumented immigrants, and has backed legislation to require hospitals check and report the immigration status of patients so that deportation proceedings can be initiated against undocumented immigrants. 1.5 million Asian Americans are undocumented, and Asian Americans are the fastest growing population of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Meanwhile, Pence also opposes a role for the United States in accepting Syrian refugees.

Pence is also vehemently opposed to abortion access, and he supports an overturning of Roe v. Wade. As governor of Indiana, Pence signed into law the Indiana Omnibus Abortion Bill (HB1337) earlier this year. HB1337 is a collection of TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion provider) laws that together make it even more difficult for women in Indiana to receive an abortion in a state where draconian laws already restrict abortion access. Among the HB1337’s many measures, abortion clinics are now obligated to perform an ultrasound and to provide brochures on perinatal hospice at least 18 hours before the procedure, which only delays when an abortion may be performed. Most relevant to AAPI women, however, is HB1337’s ban on abortions related to the sex, race or gender of the fetus.

Sex-selective abortion bans argue that they are designed to protect from the misogyny of communities of colour by preventing women from seeking an abortion for a fetus of an undesired gender (or race). Yet, no evidence that sex-selective abortions are performed anywhere in the United States has been found. Nonetheless, sex-selective bans have been passed in several states using rhetoric that specifically targets Asian American immigrant women. In South Dakota, one legislator reasoned that a ban on sex-selective abortion was necessary “because of Asians.” These bans are clearly racist against Asian Americans.

HB1337 is not the first time that Indiana has used abortion laws to target AAPI women under Mike Pence’s watch. In 2015, Purvi Patel was arrested and charged with feticide in Indiana after suffering what she says was a miscarriage of her late term fetus. Patel — who is Indian American — was the second woman in Indiana to be charged with feticide by the state; the first was Bei Bei Shuai, whose fetus died following an unsuccessful suicide attempt, and who faced charges of fetal homicide in 2012. Shuai later took a plea deal and was released. Unlike Shuai, Patel was convicted of feticide and sentenced to twenty years in prison. Her conviction is currently under appeal, but Pence’s administration has done nothing to stop the gross miscarriage of justice that has occurred in Patel’s case.

Finally, Mike Pence opposes federal funding of gay rights groups or HIV prevention programs, and supports conversion therapy — a highly controversial approach that has been repeatedly criticized for inflicting emotional, psychological and physical trauma. Pence is openly opposed to same-sex marriage, as well as hate crime laws that would protect gay victims of violence. Most notably, Pence signed into law Indiana’s infamous Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year, which legalized discrimination against LGBT customers (and theoretically anyone) on religious grounds. That law is so wildly unpopular that it incited thousands to boycott the state costing the local economy millions of dollars.

There are an estimated more than 800,000 LGBT AAPIs in the United States, and more than three-quarters have experienced discrimination based upon their race and or sexual orientation. Most AAPI voters in California support same-sex marriage, regardless of their own sexual orientation.


The Trump-Pence ticket is bad news for AAPIs. At the top of the ticket is a blowhard who has spent months inciting racism against AAPIs and other people of colour. Now, the bottom of the ticket boasts a man who may be somewhat more soft-spoken, but who has enacted real and damaging laws against AAPI immigrants, women, and LGBT individuals.

60% of AAPIs have an unfavourable opinion of Donald Trump according to the 2016 Asian American Voter Survey (by Advancing Justice, APIAVote and AAPIData). Given today’s running-mate announcement, I really don’t know how any AAPI could vote for Trump-Pence this November.

Who are these people and how doe this happen?
I really want to know how this happens.

Recent surveys show that Trump polls a whopping 0% with Black voters in battleground states, and with this vice presidential pick, he’s well on his way to doing the same with AAPI voters.

At least there’s one silver lining in all of this: with Trump’s pick, Pence may no longer run for re-election in Indiana’s upcoming gubernatorial race. So, y’know, there’s that. Let’s just use our votes in November to ensure that Pence hasn’t given up the governorship for one heck of a promotion.

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