Some local Asian-American and refugee-American leaders and groups took umbrage to statements made by the governor during the state GOP convention in Athens on Friday.
During Gov. Nathan Deal's speech, he made a reference to the federal government "dumping" refugees into Georgia. While he encouraged the Republican Party to improve outreach to the rising immigrant population in the state, he also made comments about the Boston Marathon bombers' refugee status, which brought disappointment to members of the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center.
"Refugees in America are the same as immigrants, we are active and contributing Americans and that includes getting involved in the political process," said Kevin Do, a board member of the Vietnamese American Community of Georgia and member of the Gwinnett Republican Party. "Vietnamese are the largest refugee population and third-largest Asian population in Georgia. We tend to vote conservatively both here and nationally. It's disappointing that political parties aren't connecting the dots."
Abraham Xiong, president of the Government Contractors Association and former board chair of AALAC, said he escaped political persecution as a Hmong refugee.
"I am one of the refugees 'dumped' in Georgia, but I and my family have added tremendous value to our state," Xiong said. "I am also a successful entrepreneur who provides job and training opportunities to Georgians, and my organization helps increase the capacity of minority-owned small businesses. To infer that refugees are a burden and being 'dumped' into our state is a poor choice of words at best."
Georgia is estimated to be the seventh-largest resettlment site in the country, with 2,653 refugees settling into the state in 2012. The number of refugees arriving in Georgia has declined 23 percent since 2009, a press release said.
"We will not stand for racial profiling of refugee or immigrant Americans, and find Gov. Deal's connection of the Boston bombers to their refugee roots alarming," said Helen Ho, executive director of AALAC. "Since 1982, America has experienced 62 mass shootings and 44 of the killers were white males -- is anyone making a connection between their horrific actions and their racial, ethnic or citizenship status?"
Dao Malaythong, a small business owner in Norcross who is aboard member of the Laotian American Society of Georgia and immediate past president of the Asian American Real Estate Association said: "... I'm concerned about the tenor of Gov. Deal's remarks towards refugees because if we don't feel welcome, we will leave and so will our businesses."
Fabian DeRozario of the Malaysian Association of Georgia pointed out that America is a nation of immigrants.
"The U.S.'s welcoming of refugees is a reflection of the soul of America -- the land of immigrants," he said. "Please do not demonize refugees because they are different from the majority population of the U.S."
Van Gundy fails in chairmanship bid
Local resident BJ Van Gundy was not successful in his race to win the party chairmanship at the convention.
Van Gundy, a Peachtree Corners resident who has held various positions with the Gwinnett and state organizations, came in third place. After a second ballot, the job went to John Padgett, an Athens resident who was most recently the state party's secretary.
Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.
Camie Young can be reached via email at email@example.com.
For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/politics.