Congress Makes Formal Apology For Chinese Exclusion Act

5:00 PM, Sep 20, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) --- Since 2010 the 1882 Project, a non-partisan coalition of Chinese-American and Asian-American leaders and their supporters, pushed for a formal apology from Congress for the Chinese Exclusion Act. From 1882 to 1943, Congress enacted a series of Chinese Exclusion laws prohibiting people of Chinese ancestry from becoming naturalized citizens in the U.S.

With the passage of Senate Resolution 201 (Oct. 2011) and House Resolution 683 (June 2012), the 112th Congress provided a formal apology. This is the fifth time ever that Congress has made a formal apology to a group of people.

"It takes a village to raise a takes an army to get an apology in Congress," said Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), who sponsored the bill in the House of Representatives. Chu, a Chinese American, added the 1882 Project spurred many Chinese Americans to speak to their local congressional representatives all across the nation.

The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA).

Members and friends of the 1882 Project celebrate at a reception inside the Capitol Visitor Center, Sept. 19, 2012.

Dr. Michael Lin, chair of the 1882 Project, introduced the numerous leaders at the reception. He highlighted and thanked the supporters of the project who used their own time and financial resources to spread awareness of the project across the country.

"Mistakes were made...It is only right that Congress tries to remedy this and go on record," said Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA).

"[The Chinese Exclusion Act]  has decimated the Chinese [American] community," said Haipei Shue, Co-chair of the 1882 Project and President, National Council of Chinese Americans.

"If it weren't for this law, the Chinese community here, the Asian community here, would be much, much larger...Going forward... I think we need to become actively engaged citizens in this country," Shue added.

The members of the 1882 Project plans to form an educational basis to educate Americans about the history of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The next step is to push for inclusion of the full history of the Chinese Exclusion Act within textbooks.

"We have to keep our government's feet to the fire," said Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA). 

Many people, including those working on this effort, did not know the extent of the history of the exclusionary laws.

"I was aware of what had happened in California legislature and I decided to look into it...When I looked into it, I learned that much more had happened than I knew," said Martin Gold, attorney for Covington and Burling, LLP. His practice provided pro bono aid for the 1882 Project.

"I love the Congress. Today is the 40th anniversary of the day I started working here. Sept. 19th, 1972, So I care a lot about what the Congress does. I care a lot about what the Congress thinks. These laws...were simply antithetical to the fundamental purposes of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution.  They were a disgrace to the memory of Congress. We wanted to try to make it right. So doing this took a lot of work. It was absolutely a labor of love. We loved doing it," said Gold.

The 1882 Project Steering Committee:

Chinese American Citizens Alliance
Committee of 100
Japanese American Citizens League
National Council of Chinese Americans
Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA)
Covington & Burling LLP (pro bono legal aid)

In photos:

Dr. Michael Lin, Chair of 1882 Project, Member of Committee of 100
Carolyn Hong Chan, Grand President, Chinese American Citizens Alliance
Haipei Shue, President, National Council of Chinese Americans, Co-chair of 1882 Project
Ted Gong, Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Steering Committee member of 1882 Project
Martin Gold, Partner, Covington and Burling, LLP
Erica Lai, Attorney, Covington and Burling, LLP
Elizabeth Bell, Attorney, Covington and Burling, LLP
Ginny Gong, OCA
Stan Tsai, OCA 
YongJing Jin
Dr. Libin Jia
Jordan French, Esq.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)
Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL)
Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) 

Written by: Elizabeth Jia

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