Asian-American business leaders and representatives filled the Mason District Governmental Center to hear George Allen, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate seat, speak about a variety of topics during an “Ambassadors for Allen” roundtable last Friday.
At least 25 leaders and representatives from various Asian-American organizations were in attendance in addition to Fairfax County residents of Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Korean, Pakistani, Japanese, Taiwanese heritage.
A Warm Reception
Allen, a former governor of Virginia and U.S. senator, answered questions from the standing room only crowd about illegal immigration, human trafficking, taxes, debt, traffic, religious freedom and human rights. During the open forum, Allen assured residents that he would fight for their community and their issues.
“Things don’t have to be the way they are now. I want to send a message to the world that America is open for business again,” said Allen.
Audience members said they were pleased with Allen’s willingness to come to Annandale and talk with the Asian community about the issues that concern them.
“I am totally convinced that [Allen] will be the senator for all of the people, not some of the people like some of the congressmen these days,” said M. Siddique Sheikh with the Pakistan American Business Association.
When asked about immigration, Allen noted that his mother, who was born and raised in Tunisia, was an immigrant. He said he was proud of the different ethnicities that make up the patchwork of America.
“Most people look at this country as a beacon of freedom. Freedom improves the quality of life of people. Our country has been built and improved by immigrants. People coming into America will continue to improve our country,” said Allen.
While Allen said he’s not advocating “rounding up” illegal immigrants, he said he does support securing the U.S. borders.
“We are a country of laws and we should not reward illegal behavior,” said Allen. “It’s not an easy issue, but there are a lot of people in this country that are here for the right reasons.”
Allen, who lives in Mount Vernon, also spoke warmly about his connection to Vietnam and Taiwan. Susan Allen’s father completed two tours in Vietnam and Allen referred to himself as a friend of Taiwan as he listened to audience members give updates on the progress of civil rights struggles in those countries.
“If Vietnam could get freedom, it would be a vibrant country. The Vietnamese-Americans here could be a great bridge and source of help for others,” said Allen.
Small Business and Transportation in Northern Virginia
Regarding ways to improve small business for Asian-Americans, Allen said today’s problems aren’t due to race, but what he called a “lack of confidence in the government.”
“[Small business owners] don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s uncertain and it’s unpredictable. If nothing happens in Washington on tax policy, next year, taxes are going up,” said Allen. “I think it’s important to get someone in there and get a solution. We’re going to have to come together and get real tax reforms and predictability.”
One representative expressed concern about transportation in Northern Virginia and improving the current roads. Allen said the state now receives a lot of support from the private sector and private labor agreements and a preference by some for using unionized workers on the roads poses problems for moving forward and creates issues for taxpayers.
“Roads are not free. You have to pay for them one way or another. People don’t like tolls, but they are direct user fees that are used to pay for the roads,” said Allen.
If elected, Allen said he would like to introduce legislation that would allow Virginia to drill for oil off the coast which he believes will give the state enough revenue that could go toward transportation, roads, school buildings and more.
America’s Debt, Freedom of the Internet and Health Insurance
The current deficit, the country’s debt and counter-productive energy policies are three things Allen said “harm American’s ability to control our own destiny.”
“The debt situation is dangerous... We may not be Greece, but we can learn from Greece. We just cannot keep spending this way. It’s loading future generations with such dangerous levels of debt we’re going to end up with inflation and a weakened dollar,” said Allen.
Allen said he would reject “gimmicks” such as the congressional super committee created last year by President Barack Obama and instead suggest the federal government adopt a balanced budget requirement in order to have “long-term fiscal sanity.”
When asked by an audience member for his thoughts on the rising cost of health care, Allen said health savings accounts would help keep costs down for families and be more affordable than current health insurance plans.
After another audience member told Allen that Twitter was blocked in Vietnam, Allen compared the Internet to the creation of the Gutenberg Press because of its reach in spreading information to the masses.
“I’d like to see technology companies like Facebook and Twitter saying we don’t want the government controlling the Internet because it’s a great way of spreading ideas and information,” said Allen, who added that he would put pressure on technology companies to not tolerate repressive countries blocking their citizens from using social media.
Friday’s roundtable was the second event of its kind Allen and his wife, Susan Allen, held with members of the Asian-American community in the Northern Virginia area.