Current debates over U.S. immigration have centered largely around unauthorized workers and families, especially Latinos. But as our recent issue of Southern Exposure, "East Meets South" showed, another growing presence in the South are Asian-Americans.

Although the number of Asian-Americans living in the South isn't close to how many live in, say, the West (where over 50% of U.S. residents who identify as Asian live), the South has one of the fastest rates of increase, largely clustered in urban areas in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. This growing presence was one of the reasons cited by the Association for Asian American Studies for holding their 2006 conference in Atlanta earlier this year.

CQ Politics has an interesting piece about the growing political clout of Asian-Americans, based on a new report by the Democratic Party-linked Asian American Action Fund. The piece notes that Asian-American may only be 5% of the national population, but are finding ways to heighten their political clout:

[R]ecent trends in demographics and political activity point to a decided increase in electoral participation by Asian residents in this election year and beyond.

According to the report [pdf] ... the number of political candidates and officeholders of Asian descent have increased dramatically over the past decade. In 1996, there were about 300 Asian American elected officials nationwide. By 2005, that number had grown to 555.

The report also found that more than one-third of the Asian-Americans who participated in the 2004 election were first-time voters.

Demographic trends also point toward increased political clout for Asians. The Census Bureau estimated that the Asian population grew to 14 million in 2004, an increase of 3.4 percent from a year earlier. That was the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group.

 

The political dynamic is similar to that of Latinos in the South and beyond: the numbers may be small now, but the trend lines are all up from here.