Iranian Americans Gather In Support of Congressman Mike Honda
San Francisco, CA - On Friday, April 13, 2007, a group of Iranian Americans gathered at the Northern California home of IAPAC Trustee Faraj Aalaei, in support of U.S. Congressman Mike Honda’s (D-15th/CA) reelection to the House of Representatives.
Congressman Honda has represented the 15th Congressional District of California since 2001. Recently named House Democratic Senior Whip, Mr. Honda’s movement in Congress has been dynamic. He currently serves on the Appropriations Committee, and has held posts on its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce, Justice, Science, and Legislative Branch subcommittees. As Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee, to which he was elected in 2005, Congressman Honda is working on incorporating new and emerging constituencies into the Democratic Party’s agenda. His reaching out to the Iranian American community is one example of that effort. As a progressive democrat, Congressman Honda has fought for the causes of underrepresented minority groups and advocated for their civil rights. His experience as a Japanese American, interned as a youth in a Colorado internment camp during World War II, brings such issues very close to home. His experiences and political posture made him an early advocate of the Middle Eastern community, targeted after the attacks of September 11.
The gathering, comprised of Iranian Americans representing the business, technical, and academic sectors, engaged Congressman Honda on a multitude of issues. After the Congressman mingled individually with attendees, Mr. Aalaei began the group discussion with an eloquent introduction, thanking the Congressman for his support of the Iranian American community, recognizing his political achievements, and sharing with Congressman Honda what issues are of concern to the Iranian American community now. Participants shared their beliefs that Iranian Americans, despite their views on the current regime in Iran, do not want Iran to be militarily attacked by the United States, and do not want Iran to become the next Iraq. The hour-long group discussion, and further individual discussions, delved into issues of foreign policy, immigration, and stem cell research, and views ranged on many of the issues.
Congressman Honda listened closely to the concerns of the group, and responded with his thoughts on the issues, and his recommendations to help the Iranian American community find its political voice. “We call ourselves a nation of immigrants. It’s true. But we’re really a nation of diasporas,” stated Congressman Honda, evidencing his understanding of Iranian American emotion toward the plight of the Iranian people. The theme of family unification, between Iranian Americans and their family living in Iran, emerged in a conversation about immigration. Congressman Honda responded to an inquiry regarding the difficulty Iranians face in obtaining visas, stating that family unification is an important objective, and that he and others in Congress are working to make the immigration system more responsive and efficient in expediting visa requests – changes, he said, that could be expected in the near future. He added that such changes include updating the technical processes used by government agencies reviewing and granting visa requests.
On the issues of political mobilization and the development of the identity of the Iranian American community, Congressman Honda emphasized the importance of the community showing the U.S. government and media who Iranian Americans and Iranians actually are. The Congressman suggested to achieve that goal, the Iranian American community needs to send clear and succinct messages to government and media regarding its position on issues important to it, by creating talking points on issues and the rationale behind them, and providing that to government leaders, by getting more editorials written and published in newspapers and other media outlets, and by sitting down with government representatives and telling them the Iranian American community wants to be involved.
Congressman Honda showed grace, warmth, and what it means to be an accessible leader, as he later enjoyed the Persian cuisine, and spoke individually with those gathered in his support.