Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, which proposes to reinstate parts of affirmative action in California, has created a rift in Asian American politics that is playing out in the west San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles Times reports. California Proposition 209, which passed in November 1996, states public employment, education, or contracting cannot be based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 would repeal Prop 209 in terms of public education, in effect reinstating affirmative action in public universities and colleges.
Reactions to Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 (SCA-5) split Asian Americans into pro-affirmative action and anti-affirmative action camps. Frank Shyong reported in the Los Angeles Times that one side contains younger Asian Americans and older immigrants who typically lean Democrat, while the other is an emerging group composed of recent immigrants who identify as Republican.
Historically, Asian Americans have supported affirmative action. In a 1996 Los Angeles Times exit poll found 61 percent of Asian Americans voted against Prop 209, showing support for affirmative action. This camp has previously joined black and Latino voters who banded together to elect Asian officials and achieve common policy goals, reported Shyoung. But this demographic of voters is quickly changing with the influx of Asian immigrants and non-English speakers leaning Republican.
A growing contingent of community leaders worry that race-based admissions will deny opportunties to Asian Americans who have been working for entrance into the University of California and California State University system. "College-admission standards should reflect our efforts, not by race,” Kenny Hsu of the Southern California Council of Chinese Schools told KPPC. Social media outlets such as WeChat and Weibo have become platforms for mobilization against SCA-5, the Times reports. Vivian Chan, mother of a student attending San Marino High School, told the Times, “All of a sudden, everyone was talking about [SCA-5].” Polly Low, a Rosemead councilwoman and president of the Chinese American Elected Officials Assn. said the association decided to take a stand against SCA-5 after local Chinese elected officials were bombarded with calls.
SCA-5 did not receive the support it needed to be placed on the ballot this coming November, but the bill may resurface in the 2016 election. The debate has gained momentum with political and community leaders and will remain part of the discussion in the California GOP convention, reports the Pasadena Star-News.