U.S. Repsentatives Judy Chu, Judy Biggert and Mike Coffman along with Senators Feinstein and Brown, Thursday announced the introduction of a resolution calling on Congress to formally acknowledge and express regret for the passage of a series of laws during the turn of the 20th Century that violated the fundamental civil rights of Chinese-American settlers.
"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," said Chu, lead House co-sponsor, at a press conference to introduce the resolution.
"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" Chu continued
"This resolution takes an important step towards recognizing one of the great – yet often overlooked – injustices in our shared history, and accepting the lessons it has to teach us," said Biggert, lead House co-sponsor.
"America's strength has always derived from the principles of our founders and our ongoing struggle to live up to those ideals. This resolution continues that struggle by calling on Congress to illuminate a past mistake, and reaffirm our commitment to freedom and equality. I'm very pleased to join Congresswoman Chu in introducing this resolution as part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which celebrates the contributions of countless Chinese Americans," Biggert added.
"Today we take 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," said Coffman, original House co-sponsor.
"In 1910, the U.S. government opened the Angel Island Immigration Station to isolate Chinese immigrants in San Francisco and the Bay Area. These immigrants were separated from family members, subjected to embarrassing medical examinations and detained for months and sometimes years. Despite these hardships, Chinese immigrants persevered, and today make invaluable contributions to the development and success of our country," said Senator Feinstein, lead co-sponsor of the Senate resolution.
"The 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," said 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 Senator Brown, lead co-sponsor of the Senate resolution. "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."
The Chinese Exclusion Laws involved legislation Congress passed between 1870 and 1904 that explicitly discriminated against persons of Chinese descent based on race. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which imposed a ten-year moratorium on Chinese immigration and naturalization of Chinese settlers. The law was later expanded several times to apply to all persons of Chinese descent, each time imposing increasingly severe restrictions on immigration and naturalization. Although the Chinese Exclusion Laws were repealed in 1943 as a war measure after China became a World War II ally of the United States, Congress has never formally acknowledged that the laws singling out and ostracizing Chinese were incompatible with America's founding principles.