Fred, a native of India who immigrated to the United States to find work, came to DeWitt Clinton Elementary School in Uptown on Tuesday afternoon to let his voice be heard.
“People still have dreams. They still have hope.” Fred told Progress Illinois. “But we are facing the debt of the last ten years.”
Married with two sons and a daughter, Fred studied to be a medical technologist. But now, he’s looking for work. In this election, Fred said finances are his big concern. “When you have a family, you aren’t looking out for one stomach, you have to feed four people at the house,” he said. Fred also made it clear he doesn’t want to take care of his family by using government handouts. “I want to live off real paid checks,” he said.
Fred brought up the irony that while he came to America to work, India’s economy is now doing better than America’s. He believes job outsourcing is a main reason. “When you call a bank, or Comcast, the call goes to India,” Fred said. “So that job that’s supposed to be here is there.”
Many other Asian American voters share Fred’s concerns, according to Rekha Radhakrishan, the communications coordinator at Chicago’s Asian American Institute (AAI). Radhakrishan said the recession has hit Asian Americans at a disproportionate level, so when they list jobs and the economy as concerns, it’s because they’re feeling the effects more. According to an AAI survey of Asian Americans in Illinois, 56 percent say the U.S. economy is doing fair, and 21 percent say it’s doing poorly.
To push some Illinois Asian American issues forward, Radhakrishan said the AAI launched the first Asian American Caucus in Springfield this past May. She said the goal is to get a group of legislators together who represent Asian-dense districts, and then have discussions about some of the issues that the community is focused on.
According to Radhakrishan, there are no Asian American legislators in the Illinois General Assembly. She also said neither presidential candidate, President Barack Obama nor former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, really reached out to Asian Americans during the campaign. “There was an opportunity to reach this group of voters,” she said.
Even so, the AAI survey shows President Obama had a slight edge with Illinois’ Asian American community. Fred stopped short of saying he’d vote for President Obama, only saying he grew up in a Democratic country and wanted to continue to live in one.
Overall, Fred said he wants politicians to start paying attention to what’s going on in the lives of regular people. “We’re going to Mars in big robotic cars, but what about what’s happening here?” he asked.