WASHINGTON, DC – The 1882 Project applauds 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.
“The 1882 Project deeply appreciates the leadership and commitment from the resolutions’ cosponsors and will work tirelessly to help Congress pass these resolutions,” said Michael Lin, 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.”
The resolutions address a series of legislative measures passed between 1879 and 1904 that severely restricted the immigration of Chinese persons to the United States and violated the civil rights of Chinese immigrants already living in America. H. Res. 282 was introduced byRepresentatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and S. Res. 201 was introduced by Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Daniel Akaka (D-HI).
“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 are 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While the laws were repealed in 1943 in order to strengthen the alliance between the United States and China during World War II, Congress has never formally acknowledged or expressed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 May 26, 2011 by lead cosponsors 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.”
In 2011, the United States Senate issued an apology and in 2012, the United States House of Representatives also apologized.
The 1882 Project is a nonpartisan, grassroots effort spearheaded by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, the Committee of 100, the Japanese American Citizens League, the National Council of Chinese Americans, and OCA. The Project’s larger mission is to educate the American public about the history and consequences of the Chinese Exclusion Laws, their extended impact on persons of Asian descent, and their continuing significance for all Americans. For more information on the 1882 Project, please visit www.1882project.org.
Copyright 2011, 2017 All Rights Reserved Charleston C. K. Wang, Esq., Publisher
WANGNEWS OPINION PAGE
WHY AN APOLOGY BY CONGRESS FOR CHINESE EXCLUSION IS IMPORTANT TODAY
The legal challenge mounted by Wong Kim Ark (U S Supreme Court 1898) against the constitutionality of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 involved issues as alive today as a century ago. Today, there is a movement in America to pass a Constitutional Amendment to repeal the 14th Amendment provision for citizenship by birth in USA and making citizenship only by birth to US Citizen parents. Therefore an apology by Congress today is very important and relevant - please think about this carefully. *See Postscript 1/29/2017 below.
THE STORY OF WONG KIM ARK , A NATIVE SON WHO STRUCK A BLOW AGAINST THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT OF 1882.
Wong Kim Ark was born in the year 1873 at No. 751 Sacramento Street , city of San Francisco , county of San Francisco, state of California , United States of America . His mother and father were persons of Chinese descent, simple subjects of the Emperor of China, were not engaged in any diplomatic or official capacity on behalf of China, but were residents of the United States. Wong Kim Ark grew up to be a laborer.
In 1890, at the age of seventeen, Wong Kim Ark visited China , the distant land of his ancestors. He returned on the steamship Gaelic, and was admitted to his country of birth in the same year. After coming of age, he departed once more for China in 1894 and returned to the United States in August 1895. He sought to enter his country of birth but was refused entry by government officials.
Wong Kim Ark was caught up in a time of intense public hysteria and agitation against the presence of Chinese and other Asian minorities (the “Yellow Peril”) in the American West. Local political and general public sentiment were bent on getting rid of the Chinese. The “Chinese must go” demands intensified with each cycle of economic slow-down when jobs became scarce and the Chinese were willing to work hard for less pay. In conformance with prevailing exclusionary prejudice, the local customs collector and later the local United States district attorney asserted that Wong Kim Ark was not a citizen of the United states and had no privilege to enter the country. For you see, in 1882, Congress had passed the racially discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act which was designed to stop Chinese from coming to America . Wong Kim Ark was held in confinement as an illegal alien awaiting deportation.
Wong Kim Ark protested that neither he nor his parents have ever renounced his allegiance to the United States , and that he had never done or committed any act or thing to exclude him from his country of birth. Wong Kim Ark insisted on his right to come home. He initiated a lawsuit for habeas corpus (order to release a prisoner illegally detained) in federal district court for Northern California . The court ordered Wong Kim Ark to be discharged from confinement upon finding him to be a citizen of the United States .
The United States government, not satisfied with the findings of the lower court, appealed to the United States Supreme Court. In United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the question presented to be answered by the high Court was this:
Is a child born in the United States, of parents of Chinese descent, who at the time of his birth are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicile and resident in the United States, and are carrying on business, and are not employed in the any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, a citizen of the United States?
For the Supreme Court it was a simple case. After the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Civil Rights Act of 1866 expressly provided:
All persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States .
The United States Congress, shortly afterwards in 1868, obviously thinking it unwise to leave so important a concept of citizenship as an ordinary law, elevated it to constitutional stature through Section I of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Thus, the relevant part of the Constitution expressly provides:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States , and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.
It is not surprising, therefore that in 1898, the Supreme Court, true to its long but checkered tradition of rendering justice independent of public hysteria, popular emotions, and political pressure, addressed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 in this manner:
Whatever considerations, in the absence of a controlling provision of the Constitution, might influence the legislative or executive branch of the government to decline to admit persons of the Chinese race to the status of citizens of the United States, there are none that can constrain or permit the judiciary [i.e. the Supreme Court] to refuse to give full effect to the preemptory and explicit language of the Fourteenth Amendment, which declares and ordains that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”
The United States government was thus ordered to release Wong Kim Ark from confinement and to admit him to his country of birth as a full fledged citizen. Having struck a legal blow against the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a natural born, native son had finally come home.
Today, most immigrants in America know that their children who are born in the United States are automatically vested with natural citizenship by virtue of the birth. Some may know that this is because of the 14th Amendment. Now, we should know and remember how this fundamental right was attacked, defended and won at law: Wong Kim Ark, a simple Chinese laborer, refused to accept the attempted infliction of an unjust act and chose to vigorously pursue his rights under the law. His efforts were fruitful and the fruits continue to benefit many people to this day.
Today some people actively want to do away with the Citizenship Clause of the 14 Amendment. See, e.g.
Defend Our 14th Amendment – Child of Steel and Fire
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution came into existence on July 9, 1868, only after the end of the Civil War – a child born of trial by fire and steel. Section One begins with the Citizenship Clause which provides that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” The purpose of the Citizenship Clause was to reverse the ignominy of Dred Scott v. Sanford , an 1857 decision of the United States Supreme Court which barred African Americans from becoming citizens of the land in which they were born, a decision that affirmed the institution of slavery, a decision that led to war. Slavery was profitable because the children of those enslaved were automatically the property of the slave-owner and never a free citizen of the Nation into which they were born, never to be protected by the Constitution and the laws of the land.
To emasculate the 14th Amendment of its Citizenship Clause is to take a step backwards into the time when slavery marred the humanity of this land and the fairness of our politics. It is to disrespect all those who gave their lives to end the institution of slavery and of Jim Crow. Furthermore, to take out the Citizenship Clause is to endanger the remaining Clauses of the Section - the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses as they are to be applied in the several States: “Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Chinese Americans may take pride in the fact that Wong Kim Ark challenged the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that sought to deprive persons born in the United States of Chinese parents their right to natural born citizenship and won a decision from the U S Supreme Court (U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 1898) upholding the born- in-the-USA Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment. In 1954, the Equal Protection Clause became the foundation for Brown v. Board of Education (1954), a decision of the Supreme Court which called for an end to racial segregation all across these United States.
Does the fact that these Clauses protect all “persons” who are “within the jurisdiction” of a state within the Union cause offense to anyone? This ideal is a vital cornerstone of the majesty of American law, a beacon of hope and a guiding example to all Nations of the world. It is a shining light proclaiming that our laws apply fairly and equally to all who live within our borders, without regard to our status but just because we are vulnerable human beings deserving of and entitled to due process and equal protection of our laws. This I believe was the dream deep in the hearts and souls of those who wrote the Constitution, as amended, and of the many more who fought to defend it.
An opinion by Charleston C. K. Wang, Memorial Day, 5/30/2011
*Postscript 1/29/2017 - Equal protection and Due Process are vital in 2017 on account of the rising tide to exclude immigrants on the basis of religion.