The JACL (Seattle Chapter) supports efforts of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) and U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, to pass a bi-partisan resolution that expresses regret for the passage of discriminatory laws that restricted the civil rights of Chinese immigrants and reaffirms Congress’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all people, regardless of race, and ethnicity.
Between 1879 and 1904, Congress passed legislation that barred people of Chinese descent from becoming naturalized and broadly restricted an influx of Chinese to the United States, even in an era when immigration was openly welcomed for Europeans. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which imposed a ten year-moratorium on Chinese labor immigration. Congress subsequently extended the moratorium to apply to all persons of Chinese descent and made the moratorium permanent. In the debates accompanying the anti-Chinese legislation, House Members used blatantly racist rhetoric. Chinese immigrants were frequently portrayed during Congressional debates as “aliens, not to be trusted with political rights” and not able to assimilate in America.
To advance America’s wartime objectives in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, Congress repealed the laws excluding Chinese immigration and naturalization in 1943. However, Congress has never expressly acknowledged that the laws singling out and ostracizing Chinese persons violated the fundamental American principles of equality, opportunity, and fairness. By directly targeting persons of Chinese descent for physical and political exclusion, Congress legitimized their political alienation and persecution.
As the last generation of immigrants and citizens affected by these disturbing laws begin to leave us, it is timely for Congress to express regret for its role in this troubling part of America’s history. Apart from recognizing this record, passage of the House Resolution 282 and Senate Resolution 201 will reaffirm Congress’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all people, regardless of race or ethnicity.