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Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress

  Dalip Singh Saund of CaliforniaJon R. Friedman, 2007, Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

On December 15, 1900, one of the early Hispanic Members of Congress, Delegate Pedro Perea of New Mexico, escorted a tall man with a handlebar moustache into the well of the U.S. House of Representatives. Robert W. Wilcox took the oath of office as the first Delegate from the Territory of Hawaii. Wilcox, along with his wife, two children, and an aide, had just arrived that morning in Washington, DC, after a long transcontinental train trip. Quickly surrounded by well-wishers, the first Asian Pacific American (APA) Member of Congress and, in fact, the first individual to represent a constituency outside the continental United States, set to work.

Over the course of the next century, more than 60 individuals of Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry followed Delegate Wilcox into the U.S. Congress. Their saga spans vast distances, stretching from Manila in the faraway Philippine archipelago to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Rooted in U.S. expansion into the Pacific Ocean, the story of APAs in Congress was also influenced by successive waves of immigrants and refugees who arrived on American shores. In time, APAs moved from almost complete exclusion and marginalization to a rising influence at the center of American government.

Starting in the early 1990s, the number of Asian Pacific Americans in Congress grew exponentially. These Members account for roughly half of all APAs ever elected and embody a diverse collection of personal and family histories. Representing constituencies from every corner of America, this group of legislators founded their Caucus in 1994 to support issues and legislation important to APA communities everywhere. Today, Asian and Pacific Islanders represent an important and growing population in Congress.

Use the interactive map to compile information on the representation of APAs in Congress, such as the number of Members who served from a particular state or region and when they served.