Congress Asked to Apologize for Chinese Exclusion Laws

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From left: 1882 Steering Committee members Martin Gold, Ted Gong and Haipei Shu; Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) and Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park); Floyd Mori, committee member and JACL national executive director; and Michael Lin, 1882 Project chair.

WASHINGTON — Resolutions calling on Congress to formally acknowledge and express regret for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Laws were introduced in the House and Senate on May 26.

Enacted between 1882 and 1904, the Chinese Exclusion Laws severely restricted the naturalization and immigration of people of Chinese descent. Although the laws were repealed in 1943, Congress has never formally acknowledged or expressed regret for the harm and destruction these discriminatory laws caused in the Asian American community.

The Japanese American Citizens League endorses this action and has issued a resolution in support. JACL National Executive Director Floyd Mori serves on the steering committee that is spearheading this effort.

Mori and other steering committee members were present at the press conference where Reps. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) and Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) announced the introduction of the resolution. The event was held in May in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

“A century ago, the Chinese came here in search of a better life,” said Chu. “But they faced harsh conditions, particularly in the halls of Congress. Congress passed numerous discriminatory exclusion laws that barred the Chinese from accessing basic rights given to other immigrants. These laws engendered hatred, bigotry and prejudice in the minds of Americans towards Chinese. Many were brutally murdered, and even more were abused, harassed and detained.

“It is long overdue that Congress officially acknowledges these ugly laws, and expresses the sincere regret that Chinese Americans deserve. The last generation of settlers impacted by this legislation are leaving us, giving Congress a short window to make amends to those who were directly affected. As the first Chinese American congresswoman, I am proud to say that we will today introduce a resolution on the House floor that does just that.”

“This resolution takes an important step towards recognizing one of the great – yet often overlooked – injustices in our shared history, and accepting the lessons it has to teach us,” said Biggert. “America’s strength has always derived from the principles of our founders and our ongoing struggle to live up to those ideals. This resolution continues that struggle by calling on Congress to illuminate a past mistake, and reaffirm our commitment to freedom and equality. I’m very pleased to join Congresswoman Chu in introducing this resolution as part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which celebrates the contributions of countless Chinese Americans.”

“Today we take an important step in acknowledging a great injustice in American history when Congress, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, enacted a series of discriminatory measures against Chinese Americans that not only limited their rights but denied them citizenship,” said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), an original House co-sponsor.

“In 1910, the U.S. government opened the Angel Island Immigration Station to isolate Chinese immigrants in San Francisco and the Bay Area,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), lead co-sponsor of the Senate resolution. “These immigrants were separated from family members, subjected to embarrassing medical examinations and detained for months and sometimes years. Despite these hardships, Chinese immigrants persevered, and today make invaluable contributions to the development and success of our country.

“The enactment of Chinese exclusionary laws is a shameful part of our history that must not be forgotten. I hope this resolution will serve to inform those who may not be aware of this regrettable chapter in our history, and bring closure to the families of immigrants who lived through this difficult time.”

“Today we take a step toward expressing regret over an unfortunate period in U.S. history when Chinese immigrants were discriminated against because of their race,” said Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), lead co-sponsor of the Senate resolution. “Chinese Americans have been a critical component of our national fabric and have contributed to our country in so many ways. This resolution expresses our nation’s gratitude for their contributions.”

On the Web: www.1882project.org/

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