‘We Feel Like Tokens’: NH Dem Leadership Tried to Block AAPI Support for Latino Caucus
State Democratic Party leaders tried to silence members of the New Hampshire Democratic Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus who are critical of U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas’ right turn on immigration.
“All of us feel like we’re tokens,” said Shideko Terai, a member of the NH AAPI Caucus. “This is not okay. You can’t use us and abuse us.”
Members of the New Hampshire AAPI Caucus planned last week to send out a statement of support for the New Hampshire Latino Caucus after members of the latter group’s executive team publicly quit in protest of Hassan’s support for a border wall, and Pappas and Hassan’s support for Title 42 immigration restriction.
“I have no patience for the shenanigans,” said Terai, who drafted the statement. “I’m aware of the wheeling and dealing in politics, but when it comes to doing what is right, they have Maggie Hassan’s reelection take precedence over the care of immigrants.”
With polls showing Hassan is headed for a loss in November she has responded by veering right, calling for additional wall construction on the southern border with Mexico. She even went to the border to film campaign videos as part of her effort.
Terai spoke with her caucus leadership, and they decided to draft a statement that leadership from all the state party constituency caucuses could sign to support the Latino Caucus leaders. Instead of unified support, Terai said, leaders of other minority caucuses tried to dissuade her from going forward.
“I was told, ‘We have to be really careful. We need Sen. Hassan’s fundraising,’” Terai recalls.
Another message sent to Terai stated that Free State libertarians will use the dissent in the Democratic Party in an effort to cement their control of the state.
“I am very cognizant that we have a really tough election to run. It will not be easy to win in November despite the fact that we have values that lift all our people up. No, the Free Staters do not lead the way but they are running our state now and if people stay home in November the Free Staters will be running our state for years to come. They are using this as a recruitment tool,” the email stated.
The state party started several constituency caucuses several years ago as a way to reach out to, and support, various groups. Aside from the Latino Caucus, and the AAPI Caucus, there is the African American Caucus, the Stonewall Caucus, the Young Democrats Caucus, the Women’s Caucus, and a Veteran’s Caucus.
One email Terai saw sent from a prominent Democrat to another constituency caucus leader states the party needs to protect Hassan and that means silencing critics.
“Yes, I am suggesting you hold off (on the statement of support.) I think this matter needs to be addressed directly to Sen. Hassan. It doesn’t mean we don’t deal with the situation, but we should not address it in the same way we would address our opponents. We are all stewards of the Democratic Party, and we need to work through our differences,” the email reads.
Terai said another prominent caucus leader told her the party needs Hassan’s money, and criticism of the senator would have negative consequences for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) Democrats. Terai thinks, based on the flurry of activity set off when she sent the statement to caucus leadership last week, that Hassan’s team pressured the state party to stop the statement.
“That’s my suspicion. But you know, it’s just my suspicion from the flurry of emails, texts, and phone calls that I got,” Terai said.
Hassan’s team did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday, nor did a representative for New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley. Rep. Maria Perez, D-Milford, who was one of the Latino Caucus leaders who resigned from the executive team, was angered when she found out about the effort to silence the other caucuses.
“I’m going to start by saying that we’re very disappointed to learn about some political leaders calling other caucuses and asking them not to sign the letter to @SenatorHassan very disgraceful and anti-democrat from leadership! You know who you are, our silence is not an option!” Perez tweeted.
Perez told NHJournal that Hassan’s team is refusing to meet with her and other members of the Latino community. Perez has been told the senator does not have time to talk. Terai said the party needs to start listening to the minority caucus members before it is too late.
“All of us are gung-ho Democrats, but we’re not gung-ho NHDP, mostly because of the way we have been ignored,” Terai said.
The NH AAPI Caucus statement, released Thursday afternoon, requested Pappas and Hassan to change course.
“We respectfully ask Sen. Hassan and Congressman Pappas to reverse course and revoke their support of Title 42 as stated clearly by the NHDP Latino Caucus leaders. The decision of the signers of their statement to resign from the NHDP Executive Committee is a bold demonstration of staying true to the fight for immigrant justice. Our immigrant brothers and sisters seek safety and refuge and deserve to be welcomed across the southern border into the United States. President Joe Biden wants to end Title 42,” the statement reads.
Aside from Terai, signers included AAPI leaders Cora Quisumbing-King, and Sumathi Madhure; Laconia Democrats Secretary, and Latino Caucus Cahir Carlos Cardona; Delegate-At-Large Jordan Applewhite with the Stonewall Dems; and Delegate-At-Large the Revs. Susan and John Gregory-Davis, co-pastors of Meriden Congregational church.