On June 19, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution that formally expresses regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and other legislation that discriminated against people of Chinese origin in the United States.
The Exclusion Act prevented Chinese citizens from becoming naturalized American citizens or Chinese immigrating to the United States. The law, which lasted 60 years until 1943, encouraged and justified hostilities towards Chinese immigrants residing in the United States and separated families for generations.
This week’s issue touches on immigration, the way immigrants can change the social and physical terrain of their new homelands, while the country they’ve left behind changes in other ways. For many, immigration can be as painful as it is rewarding. But for the Chinese immigrants, who lived through the 60 years of the Exclusion Act, the experience was scarring and demoralizing.
This historic resolution is a success in two ways. First, the victims of the past are finally getting the apology they deserved. While the generations affected by these laws have passed on, the families which bear the stories of their relatives’ experiences can know that these struggles were recognized. The Exclusion Law was the first and only federal law in U.S. history that excluded a single group of people from immigration on the basis of race alone. This is only the fourth resolution of regret passed by Congress in the last 25 years.
The second success is that the resolution titled H. Res 683 was authored by Congressmember Judy Chu, the first Chinese American woman to serve on Congress. Chu’s success is a true testament to immigrants pushing our country to value the civil rights of all who reside in our nation, past and present. While the forefathers of this land laid down the ground work for democracy, immigrants have tested, embraced, and sustained these values. (end)