Back in June, I had blogged about California State Assembly Member Paul Fong’s effort in writing a landmark bill to apologize to the state’s Chinese-American community for racist laws enacted back in the mid–19th century during the Gold Rush. Last Friday, the bill passed.
The past exclusionary laws prevented Chinese from owning land or property, marrying whites, working in the public sector and testifying against whites in court. Fong’s bill also recognizes the contributions Chinese immigrants have made to the California, particularly their work on the Transcontinental Railroad.
Fong now plans to take the issue to Congress, where he will request an apology for the Chinese Exclusion Act – the only federal law ever enacted to deny immigration based exclusively on race or nationality. The Act was repealed in 1943 during World War II as China became an ally against the Japanese. Ironically, the repeal of the Act followed the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. But you have to wonder; why would any Asians want to immigrate to the United States, after such blatant discriminatory practices?
True immigration reform did not really happen for Chinese Americans and Asian Americans until the 1960’s — one of the reasons why my father was able to attend graduate school and settle in the United States. Most Asian Americans in the United States are first or second generation Americans, with a good percentage having been born outside the U.S. That is why when I first met 5th generation Asian American Evan Low, Council Member of Campbell, I was just shocked — that is something I could never had imagined while living on the East Coast.
(Image credit: Time Magazine)