A South Korean immigrant was selected to lead a panel that advises President Donald Trump on issues related to Asian Americans earlier this month.
Republican Michelle Steel, a supervisor in Orange County, California will co-chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a 12-member body.
Steel’s appointment comes at a time when Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese communities in Southern California have increasingly opposed the administration’s immigration policies.
Steel is one of the California Republicans who countered the government’s plan to deport thousands of Vietnamese refugees late last year.
In an op-ed for the Washington Times, Steel pointed out that Vietnamese refugees — particularly those who have committed crimes on American soil — also need the First Step Act, a law that would allow non-violent offenders more leniency.
She claimed that Orange County is home to “law-abiding, hard-working” Vietnamese Americans and argued that while there are some “bad eggs,” deporting them is “not the answer.”
“As an Orange County supervisor, I understand and prioritize public safety,” Steel wrote. “We’ve seen the deadly effect of criminal illegal aliens being released to wander our streets due to California’s ‘sanctuary’ laws.”
“However, deporting Vietnamese refugees who have committed crimes is not in the same category, nor does it call for the same arguments for deporting criminal illegals.”
However, Steel has sided with the administration when it comes to policies that seemingly target Latinos, according to the Orange County Register.
In March 2018, she actively participated in the move to oppose sanctuary state laws and even greeted Trump with her husband, Shawn Steel — one of California’s three members on the Republican National Committee — when the president came to see border wall prototypes.
It’s unclear how Steel plans to approach her new advisory post. Asian Americans in the region have mixed reactions over her appointment.
“Michelle Steel was (one) of the earliest voices on the Republican side to take this position to safeguard Vietnamese Americans,” Assemblyman Tyler Diep (R-Westminster) told the Register. “There is not much else I can advise Supervisor Steel on because she is knowledgeable about the priorities of Vietnamese Americans.”
Meanwhile, others worry that Steel will only further Trump’s anti-immigration agenda.
“While it’s heartening that she’s taken a stance against (Vietnamese refugee) deportations, my confidence wanes when I hear that she actively opposed sanctuary laws,” said Reshma Shamasunder of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ). “Our hope is that she’ll listen to the public outcry and see the wrong pathway they’re moving down. If they don’t, that creates fear for Asian communities.”
Aside from her advisory post, Steel was also appointed as vice chairwoman of Orange County’s Board of Supervisors, with Lisa Bartlett as chairwoman.
“I look forward to working with Chairwoman Bartlett and our colleagues to ensure a higher quality of life on behalf of all our Orange County residents,” said Steel, whose 2nd district covers Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, La Palma, Cypress, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, Stanton, parts of Fountain Valley and Buena Park and the unincorporated area of Rossmoor, the Los Angeles Times reported.