By Hans Hung-Yuan Chen,The China Post
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed by unanimous consent a resolution that expresses the nation’s regret over discriminatory legislative acts committed against Chinese immigrants. Senator Scott Brown brought the motion forth for consideration in May. Co-sponsor of the bill, Senator Dianne Feinstein, stated that the intent of the resolution was “to express regret for the many injustices that were experienced by Chinese immigrants … and for all of us as Americans to learn from this difficult chapter in our nation’s past.” Senators Orrin Hatch, Patty Murray, Ben Cardin, Marco Rubio, and Daniel Akaka are also co-sponsors of the resolution.
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited ethnic Chinese from immigrating to the United States and denied the privilege of naturalization to Chinese people, is the most infamous legislation of a series addressed by Scott’s motion to make amends for this ignominious part of America’s past. With searing candidness, the resolution traces decades of discriminatory action that severely curtailed the rights of Chinese in the U.S. to own land, access public education, travel freely and even required Chinese people to register with the government on the sole basis of their ethnicity as a precondition for obtaining “certificates of residence.” Spanning six decades across the 19th and 20th centuries, laws authored by state and federal governments also denied judicial rights to Chinese detainees by authorizing extended confinements. The Chinese Exclusion Act and its subsequent extensions prevented Chinese from gaining American citizenship and all the civil privileges and protections that are embodied within it.
In spite of all these hardships, the resolution recognizes that “Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans persevered and have continued to play a significant role in the growth and success of the United States.” The LA Times reported that Rep. Judy Chu has introduced parallel legislation in the House of Representatives. Chu is championing the legislation with a personal obligation to right the wrongs done to her grandfather, the LA Times said.
Ronald Reagan in 1988 signed a resolution of apology to Japanese Americans who were targeted for relocation and internment on the basis of their ethnicity during World War II. Indemnities were included in that act. The bills going through Congress contain no financial reparations.