Two immigrants from Asia are possible nominees for the Supreme Court. The Asian American community are eagerly awaiting President Barack Obama’s announcement.
“Asians in general are becoming more involved in the political system as judiciary members of the bench, so it really is just a testament of the times for Asians to now be nominated for this open seat that’s available,” said Pamela Thakur, former president and vice president of the South Asian Bar Association of Southern California’s Public Interest Foundation.
Ever since the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, names of his successor have been circulating in Washington and throughout the legal community. Of the possible nominees: Sri Srinivasan and Jacqueline Nguyen.
Born in India, Srinivasan is a federal appellate court judge and now, well known across the South Asian community in the United States.
“It’s all over every South Asian newspaper. It’s not just the attorneys in the legal community. This is all over for the business community for South Asians as a whole,” said Thakur.
Thakur said Srinivasan has a good chance of being the nominee because of his professional background, and the South Asian Community would be disappointed if he isn’t named.
“He was clerking for Judge Sandra Day O’Conner. He was instrumental to the legal arguments for legalization of gay marriage and a lot of the justices of the Supreme Court also served in the same position as he is in now, which is the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit,” said Thakur.
More than 50 kilometers south of Los Angeles is Little Saigon — also known as the “capital of the Vietnamese refugee community.”
There is also excitement as news circulates that Jacqueline Nguyen, a Vietnamese American, could be a possible Supreme Court nominee.
As Managing Editor of the Vietnamese newspaper, Nguoi Viet, Dzung Do has interviewed Nguyen in the past. He said Vietnamese Americans who escaped the Communist regime desperately want to see one of their own on the Supreme Court.
“They want to have somebody over here achieve something, like represent them, so they can tell the people [communist], “hey we ran away from you, but now we’re successful. So that’s kind of the feeling that people have,” Do said.
Originally from Vietnam, Nguyen and her family fled their homeland when the communists took over South Vietnam. As refugees in the U.S., Nguyen first lived in a tent city before settling in Los Angeles.
“My parents were in shock because not only did they have to deal with the loss of their homeland, but also with the prospect of starting all over again, trying to figure out how to provide food and shelter and raise six children in a foreign land. Whenever job opportunities came our way my mom would take it,” said Nguyen in a video produced by United States Courts.
US appellate court judge
Nguyen is currently serving as U.S. appellate court judge for the Ninth Circuit.
In an Op-Ed by Nguyen in the San Jose Mercury News, she wrote that one of the most meaningful roles as a federal judge is “to preside over naturalization ceremonies for new citizens. Looking out at their joyful faces, I am reminded of my own journey to citizenship. I tell them of my own feelings of hope and pride when I took the oath 'to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States,' the same oath they are about to take. I remind them of the tremendous privileges of citizenship, but also of its responsibilities.”
Longtime friend and criminal defense attorney, Mia Yamamoto, first met Nguyen when she was a law student. Yamamoto said Nguyen’s background shaped her dedication to service throughout her legal career.
”She passed up a lot of more advantageous and certainly more lucrative options in order to pursue her passion for public service.” Yamamoto added, “The fact that we’re talking about it right now is a triumph.”
Bao Nguyen, Vietnamese American and Mayor of Garden Grove said the two Asian Americans who are possible nominees reflect U.S. society in 2016.
“I think this is a point in America where we value the immigrant experience, we value the diversity of what America is all about cause that’s really our foundation. It’s really the roots of our nation,” said Nguyen.