Chinese Trump Supporters Steadfast Despite Immigration Policy Changes

Chinese Americans rallying for Trump during the election in 2016. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

As President Trump and the Congress started negotiating a DACA deal, Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, finds herself with mixed feelings. She is happy for the DACA applicants. She is furious and cannot stand President Trump’s vocabulary about “shithole countries” and “chain migration.” And more than anything else, she is fearful.

“There have to be compromises. I am really worried that the family visas that Asian Americans care the most about will be traded off,” said Yoo, who came to this country when she was 9 on a visa sponsored by her aunt. “This is the one time when every single Asian American should call their Congress member and ask them to not take away the magnet holding up our community.”

But it seems not everyone is ready to answer the call, particularly among Trump supporters. During the 2016 election, Chinese Trump supporters surprised many with their adamant faith in the candidate. And the loyalty seems to have only been cemented firmly a year later – to the extent that they even support his immigration policies that may not align with the interest of the community. “Our personal interest may be affected, but these policies are good for the country,” said Daniel Lou, co-founder of Long Innovations International Group, a consulting firm in New York.

Lou, who came to the U.S. from China in 1993 as an international student, has been a coordinator of Chinese Trump supporters since the campaign. He said the number of Chinese who support Trump has been increasing since then. The Chinese Trump supporters group he hosts on WeChat, a social media platform popular among Chinese, now has more than 500 members.

Lou doesn’t agree with all of Trump’s immigration policies, especially the tightening up of the H-1B visa which allows foreign students to work in the U.S. after graduation. His parents have passed away, while his siblings remain in China. But he said he believes the actions Trump takes are necessary. “There is so much fraud in [connection with] the H-1B application. And the family immigrants don’t have to have any skills. Many of them come here to take welfare benefits and become a burden to this country,” said Lou, an H-1B holder turned naturalized citizen. “After all, all other developed countries have a merit-based immigration policy. Why does the U.S. have to open its gate for all the people who want to come here when this country already has a $20 trillion national debt?”

Lou said many of his friends have brought all their family members to this country. Not everyone is taking welfare, but “no policy is perfect, and we have to choose the one that brings less harm,” said Lou. “The interest of those of us who are Trump supporters is hurt by the policies too. But we still support him.”

Shaohua Yu, a vendor selling grass crafts in New York’s Chinatown, is another loyal Trump supporter who doesn’t think his immigration policy is a problem. “What Trump has done is nothing wrong. He is just enforcing the immigration law which has already been there for decades but not been taken seriously,” said Yu, who came to the U.S. in 1999 on a marriage visa. “This country has long treated illegal immigrants better than the law-abiding ones. And then, the refugees, their status in this country is temporary. Who said the country has to protect them forever?” As for the family reunification immigrants, “many of these people have no skills and are not even strong and healthy. Why should the U.S. take them in?” said Yu, whose own siblings in China have no intention of coming to the U.S.

Yu said, as someone who doesn’t speak English, he often encountered discrimination. Just two months ago, he got two tickets when he rode a bike in Queens, and he thought that would not have happened were he white. “But this has nothing to do with Trump. It’s the police’s problem,” Yu said.

But advocates are not ready to give up. “Many Chinese who support Trump are small business owners and they think he is good for business,” said Mae Lee, executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association. “But we Chinese, our concept of family is different from other Americans. Family to us is several generations being together. That has not changed, and that resonates with business owners too. If they don’t realize that, they need to be reminded.”

Yoo said she is ready to work even harder to shed light on family reunification and the important role it plays for the Asian community, be it via press conferences, workshops or protests. “The president is basically saying to Asian Americans: we only want you to be here to work like a dog, but we want to keep your family away. That’s exploitation,” Yoo said.

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