Washington (May 26, 2011) – The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice commends Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA) and Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) for introducing House and Senate Resolutions, calling on Congress to formally acknowledge and express regret for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Laws.
“The introductions of these resolutions during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month are very timely,” said Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center. “It is important to recognize the historical and current contributions of Asian Americans to the United States.”
Enacted between 1882 and 1904, the Chinese Exclusion Laws were a set of laws that severely restricted the naturalization and immigration into the United States 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 Although the laws were repealed in 1943, Congress has never formally acknowledged or expressed regret for the harm and destruction these discriminatory laws caused in the Asian American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 Chinese are the only racial group ever specifically banned from the United States, and the impact of these exclusionary laws were profound, in severely hindering the Asian American community’s ability to grow and integrate into the United States as earlier immigrants were able to,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.
Despite racist exclusionary laws such as these, Asian Americans have contributed to the American economy and society for as long as they have been here. In the 1800s, they were pivotal in building the Transcontinental Railroad. Throughout American history, they have played a key role in industries important to economic growth, starting businesses and supporting communities.
“These laws, which have had long-standing consequences, have been obscured in Congress and the American public,” said Tuyet Le, executive director of the Asian American Institute.
Titi Liu, executive director of the Asian Law Caucus, added: “Acknowledging the unconstitutionality of these laws is necessary to ensuring that other groups in the future are not similarly discriminated against.”
The Organization of Chinese Americans applauded the bipartisan introductions of H. Res. 282 and S. Res. 201, expressing regret for the passage of discriminatory laws against the Chinese in America, including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
The passage of this Act marked the first time in our nation’s history that Congress expressly singled out a group of immigrants for denial of citizenship rights
“OCA deeply appreciates the leadership and commitment from the resolutions’ cosponsors and will work tirelessly to help Congress pass these resolutions,” said Michael Lin, Former OCA National President and Chair of the 1882 Project Steering Committee. “We are dedicated to educating the American public on the discriminatory effects that the Chinese Exclusion Laws had on other Asian Pacific American communities in the years following the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and of their significance to all Americans.”
“It is long overdue that Congress officially acknowledges these ugly laws, and expresses the sincere regret that Chinese Americans deserve,” said Rep. Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), in a national press conference announcing the introduction of the House resolution. “The last generation of settlers impacted by this legislation [is] leaving us, giving Congress a short window to make amends to those who were directly affected.”
While the laws were repealed in 1943 in order to strengthen the alliance between the United States and China during World War II, Congress has never formally acknowledged or expressed regret for the pain and suffering endured by Chinese immigrants as a result of the discriminatory laws. In addition to finally providing such acknowledgment, H. Res. 282 and S. Res. 201 recognize the significant contributions of Chinese Americans to the growth and success of the United States.
Rep. Chu was joined by fellow House cosponsors Reps. Biggert and Coffman in a press conference that closed out Asian Pacific American Heritage month on Capitol Hill. The press conference also included in attendance grassroots constituents and national Asian Pacific American community leaders.
“America’s strength has always derived from the principles of our founders and our ongoing struggle to live up to those ideals,” said Rep. Biggert.
Rep. Coffman added that the resolution represented “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.”
The Senate companion resolution was also filed on Thursday, spearheaded by Senators Brown and Feinstein.
“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. Brown. “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.”
Sen. Feinstein remarked that “[t]he 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.”