A bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators and Representatives are sponsoring two resolutions introduced on May 26 to acknowledge and express the regret of the U.S. Congress for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Laws. The laws singled out Chinese immigrants for discrimination on the basis of race and were in effect from 1870 until repealed in 1943 when China’s support was needed in World War II. According to Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), lead sponsor:
A century ago, the Chinese came here in search of a better life. 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."
House Resolution 282 concludes:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) acknowledges that this framework of anti-Chinese legislation, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, is incompatible with the basic founding principles recognized in the Declaration of Independence that all persons are created equal;
(2) acknowledges that this pattern of anti-Chinese legislation, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, is incompatible with the spirit of the United States Constitution;
(3) deeply regrets passing six decades of legislation directly targeting the Chinese people for physical and political exclusion and the wrongs committed against Chinese and American citizens of Chinese descent who suffered under these discriminatory laws; and
(4) reaffirms its commitment to preserving the same civil rights and constitutional protections for people of Chinese or other Asian descent in the United States accorded to all others, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
Joining Chu in the House in spearheading the resolution were Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Mike Coffman (R-CO) and, in the Senate, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Scott Brown (R-MA). A number of other members of Congress have also become sponsors, including Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Marco Rubio ( R-FL ) and Representatives Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Russ Carnahan (D-MO), John Carney (D-DE), Danny Davis (D-IL), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mike Honda (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dana Rohrabacher ( R-CA ), and Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Committee of 100 Chairman Dominic Ng wrote to each of the Congressional sponsors commending them for initiating these resolutions. He offered the Committee’s help to support their passage and highlighted the Committee’s long-term commitment to education about Chinese Exclusion and the contributions of Chinese Americans to the nation’s future:
To educate the public about the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and related laws, the Committee of 100 serves on the Steering Committee of a coalition of Asian American civic organizations that launched the 1882 Project. The Project addresses an issue that is not exclusively in the past. The issue highlighted embraces the common future for all Americans, which is served by continual public awareness of the history of Chinese Americans, the consequences of the Exclusion Laws and the contributions that Chinese and other immigrants from Asia have made in building and defending the United States.
The 1882 Project is reaching out to members of Congress to press for passage of the House and Senate Resolutions. 1882 Project Chair Michael Lin, Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) former national president, said, “These resolutions are about the protection of our founding principles, fundamental American values and our civil rights as Americans.”
Spearheaded by the Committee, Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Japanese American Citizens League, National Council of Chinese Americans and OCA, with pro bono support of Covington and Burling, the 1882 Project also is engaged in an educational effort in partnership with the Association for Asian American Studies, Chinese and Asian American museums, and historical societies across the nation to help Americans understand Chinese exclusion history and prevent future injustices of this kind against any racial or ethnic group.
On July 14, the 1882 Project hosted a reception in Washington, D.C. at Covington and Burling to celebrate the introduction of these resolutions and energize the community to support them. Congresswoman Judy Chu and Congressman Mike Honda were among the more than 100 officials and civic organization leaders who attended. Both Lin and Frank Wu were members of the reception host committee, and Wells Fargo was the corporate sponsor.