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WILSON WATCH : Asian Connection

February 09, 1991

Asians in California, like the state's other minority groups, often have special needs and concerns unique to their experience in America. Sacramento should be sensitive to its Asian constituency. That's Gary A. Lew's new job--to be the governor's link to the state's fastest-growing minority group. Lew is Pete Wilson's newly appointed liaison to the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

What Lew lacks in experience he should make up with a dogged determination to identify, understand and take up substantive issues affecting these communities. They need a voice and an ear in Sacramento.

The challenge for 24-year-old Lew, a 1989 graduate of UCLA, is not to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor in the Deukmejian Administration, who assumed a largely ceremonial role that was bluntly dismissed by strident community critics as window dressing.

Lew, a native of the San Fernando Valley, previously worked on Wilson's U.S. Senate staff in Los Angeles.

Asian and Pacific Islanders, who include Chinese, Vietnamese, Thais, Koreans, Filipinos, Samoans and others, make up about 10% of California's population. Contrary to the simple-minded stereotype of them as a model minority, the communities are diverse in culture, language, education and income. They are a complicated mosaic: American-born persons of Asian ancestry are now vastly outnumbered by immigrants.

Lew must assume a highly visible and accessible role if he is to forge a productive connection between Sacramento and these communities.

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