July 22, 2011 | Yvonne Lim Wilson
Community members are calling on lawmakers to support a Congressional resolution that formally acknowledges and expresses regret for the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. The resolution was introduced by US Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Mike Coffman (R-CO), along with Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Brown (R-MA) on May 26.
“The Chinese Exclusion Laws involved legislation Congress passed between 1879 and 1904 that explicitly discriminated against persons of Chinese descent based on race. The laws imposed increasingly severe restrictions on immigration and naturalization. Congress repealed the laws as a wartime measure in 1943, without any express acknowledgement that the laws violated fundamental civil rights,” according to the 1882 Project (www.1882project.org).
“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,” said Rep. Chu in a press release. “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.”
Local community activist Amy Wong Mok of the Asian American Cultural Center said this public apology is not just about the Chinese. It’s about admitting a mistake that involves all immigrant populations to the United States.
“If we don’t see exclusion in its full context, eventually, when it’s you then you won’t have anyone to defend you,” she said. “A strength of the American spirit is to admit mistakes so that we can move on.”
For more information, visit www.1882project.org