Joe Biden And Trump Surrogate Discuss Race Relations At An Asian American Town Hall

Joe Biden and Eddie Baza Calvo offered strikingly different perspectives on the issues facing the AAPI community in the United States. Both campaigns addressed topics important to AAPI voters, including systemic racism, immigration and economic recovery. Vicky Nguyen from NBC News and Amna Nawaz of PBS moderated the forum hosted by nonprofit APIAVote and streamed on NBC Asian America. During the town hall, race relations across the U.S. were front and center. Biden slammed Trump’s recent racist comments in which he referred to the coronavirus as the “kung flu” and “China flu” and said Trump “only knows how to speak to people’s fears, not to their better angels.”

“Asian Americans are being targeted with violence in subject to xenophobic rhetoric from the mouth of the president himself,” Biden said. “This is the president who, instead of bringing our country together, does everything he can to fan the flames of hate and division in this country.”

Calvo dodged criticism about Trump’s racist remarks around the coronavirus, instead pointing to incidents of looting that occurred around the same time as Black Lives Matter protests across the country and suggested Biden was culpable.

“I’ve seen some of the impact on Korean American stores, our Vietnamese hair and nail shops, our Filipino restaurants that have been looted and people robbed as a result of the riots,” Calvo said. “I can tell you that when you look at the destruction — and whether it’s from looting, whether it’s robbing, or burning of flags, or tearing down statues — most of all those people, if not all, aren’t going to vote for President Trump. Many of them actually are supporters of the Biden campaign.”

Biden also addressed the Asian American model-minority myth, saying he’d use data to highlight groups in need.

“AAPI writ large has an achievement level higher than any other group in America,” he said, “but that misrepresents that scores of ethnicities are, in fact, really being hurt and left behind.”

Calvo and Biden also discussed the differing stances across the two campaigns on immigration. Calvo praised the Trump administration’s stance on immigration and said the president’s “number one goal is to move to merit-based immigration.” Trump earlier this month signed an executive order putting a pause on new visas for foreign workers until the end of the year in a proclamation describing workers as “a risk to the U.S. labor market following the coronavirus outbreak.” Calvo said the order would prioritize “bringing in high-skilled workers to grow our nation.”

“It’s not about the immigrants, they’re important,” Calvo said. “But his first and foremost priority is getting Americans back to work.”

Biden vowed to send an immigration reform bill to Congress on the first day of his administration that would provide a “roadmap for citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants who contribute so much to this country, including 1.7 million AAPI.” Biden also criticized the pause on new visas for foreign workers, saying such a pause would not occur in his administration.


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