The Asian population of Fort Bend County is the largest in Texas. When the Texas Legislature convened to redraw the maps of Congress, many Asian Americans hoped it would reflect that. This does not happen.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
People of color have accounted for almost all of Texas’ population growth over the past 10 years, but when lawmakers wanted to redraw the state’s congressional maps, they actually created more white-majority districts. . The Justice Department is now suing Texas for violating the voting rights of its Latino and black citizens, but the lawsuit only casually mentions one of the state’s fastest growing racial groups – the Asian Americans. Andrew Schneider of Houston Public Media has more.
ANDREW SCHNEIDER, BYLINE: Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston, is in the heart of Texas’ 22nd Congressional District. It is home to the state’s largest Asian American population, including a large number of immigrants. So when the Texas Legislature convened to redraw the maps of Congress, many Asian Americans were hopeful that Texas-22 would reflect that. But that did not happen, says Nabila Mansoor.
NABILA MANSOOR: What really happened was that, even though we saw the population increase and we were really indicted by immigrants, these lines, when they were redrawn, were redrawn in such a way. so it actually diluted our power.
SCHNEIDER: Mansoor is a resident of Sugar Land, where she met me at a restaurant. She led the local chapter of Asian American Democrats in Texas and was redesigned out of the 22nd District.
MANSOOR: Sugar Land is a very Asian and American city, yet it is divided into three districts so that its immigrant population has lost the chance to gain real representation.
SCHNEIDER: Texas-22 has been a secure seat in Republican Congress for decades, re-electing conservative stalwarts like Tom DeLay and Pete Olson. But in 2018 and 2020, the neighborhood became very competitive. Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni came close to overthrowing the siege in both years thanks in large part to the nearly doubling of the Asian American population in Fort Bend County. But lawyer and activist Niloufar Hafizi said Republicans made sure that did not happen in 2022.
NILOUFAR HAFIZI: Our concerns are that it has been explicitly redesigned to keep Troy Nehls in power as a Republican.
SCHNEIDER: And how would he do it?
HAFIZI: I don’t know how to put it another way, but it turns the neighborhood white.
SCHNEIDER: Craig Goodman teaches political science at the University of Houston in Victoria.
CRAIG GOODMAN: Under the old lines, you know, it was basically a 50-50 district – Democrat and Republican at the presidential level. With the new boundaries, this changes the district to a Republican district of over 16 at the presidential level.
SCHNEIDER: Goodman says Republicans have done the same elsewhere.
GOODMAN: From Dallas-Fort Worth to the 2nd Congressional District also in Houston, we see this larger model of consolidating those districts that were in Democratic fashion and finding ways to move enough voters to allow Republicans to maintain the Status Quo.
SCHNEIDER: It fits the Republicans in the 22nd perfectly. Constituency President David Vrshek said there was nothing wrong with Texas GOP lawmakers setting limits that were beneficial to them. Vrshek notes that Democrats have done the same.
DAVID VRSHEK: You know, they’re complaining about the redistribution in Texas, and at the same time, they – they turn a blind eye to the redistribution in Illinois and other places.
SCHNEIDER: The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, associated with Princeton University, gave the Illinois Congressional cards an F for partisan fairness, the same failure rating it gave Texas. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is moving forward with its lawsuit against Texas with little reference to the Asian American community. But the community can still have its time in court. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has filed its own legal challenge against the state’s redistribution plans, saying CD-22 is a prime example of anti-Asian discrimination.
For NPR News, I’m Andrew Schneider in Houston.
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