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Public Statements

Expressing Regret for Passage of Laws Adversely Affecting the Chinese in the United States

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H. Res. 683, which expresses regret for a series of discriminatory laws passed between 1879 and 1904 that targeted individuals of Chinese descent in the United States, and yield myself as much time as I may consume.

I'd like to begin by thanking the gentlelady from California, Ms. CHU, for her leadership on this bipartisan resolution. To my friend, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. SMITH, thank you for your work on this resolution and for bringing it to the floor so quickly.

Beginning in 1879, Congress passed a series of discriminatory measures against the Chinese that restricted immigration and violated the civil rights of the Chinese living in the U.S.

At the height of Chinese immigration to the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries, many Chinese--like immigrants from other parts of the world--were searching for the opportunity to create a better life, driven by their hope that America could be their new promised land.

With the enactment of multiple Chinese Exclusion Acts, immigrants from China were denied the right to be naturalized as American citizens.

Six decades of anti-Chinese legislation resulted in the persecution and political alienation of persons of Chinese descent and legitimized racial discrimination, excluding them both from the democratic process and the American promise of freedom.

Chinese-Americans have since achieved prominence in all walks of American life. Though we may not be able to reverse the past, we can take action now.

By acknowledging and expressing regret for this bleak period in our history, we reaffirm our core principles of equality and justice upon which our country was founded.

Mr. Speaker, H. Res. 683 is an important demonstration of our bipartisan commitment to recognize the continued contributions of the Chinese-American community in the United States, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H. Res. 683, ``Expressing the regret of the House of Representatives for the passages of laws that adversely affected the Chinese in the United States, including the Chinese Exclusion Act.'' This resolution acknowledges the historical injustices against Chinese Americans, as reflected by a series of laws; however, with a particular emphasis on the Chinese Exclusion Act that which was first passed on March 23, 1882.

One hundred thirty years after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act and other such measures unjustly targeting individuals in the U.S. with Chinese heritage, it is necessary for

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Congress to take steps to right the wrongs that were placed on thousands of people by recognizing that discriminatory laws were passed that had a harmful effect on persons of Chinese decent here in the United States.
Just last year, I congratulated the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in Houston, Texas during their momentous 51st Biennial National Convention. This historical and highly respected organization was founded in response to the repressive 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and other Federal and State laws that aimed to restrict and ostracize. This celebration highlights the organization's 116 years as the oldest Asian American civil rights organization, consciously commemorating its courageous founders by continuing to pioneer a pragmatic future.

Securing equal economic and political support, cultivating minds through the exchange of knowledge, defending American citizenship, and observing the practice of the principles of brotherly love and mutual help, are a few of this organizations highly beneficial practices.

These goals are achieved by the organization's eighteen affiliated chapters being highly decorated with individuals of significant achievement; including leaders in the legal, medical, educational, scientific, arts and literature as well as corporate, business, and entrepreneurial endeavors. These endeavors are also supported by Members of Congress who recognize the important contributions of Chinese Americans. Legislation like the one before us today serve as reminders of how important it is not to remember our past so that we do not repeat it.

The United States has always been a place where people from diverse backgrounds arrive in hopes of attaining better opportunity, seeking refuge to escape prosecution and provide a more fruitful lifestyle for their families, likewise in the 19th and 20th century many Chinese came to the United States for similar reasons, unfortunately they were not treated favorably.

With the passage of legislation that limited Chinese immigration such as the renegotiation of the Burlingame Treaty and the Fifteen Passenger Bill which only permitted 15 Chinese passengers on any ship coming to the United States, the Chinese in this country were directly affected by unequal treatment.

On a personal level I can relate to the plight of many Chinese Americans as they fought to be accepted in the United States. I am well aware of the United State's history of discrimination and the harmful impact such discrimination has upon our society as a whole. It is my belief that no one should be forced to endure inequality on the basis of their race, class, gender or religious belief.

It is necessary that measures are constantly taken to ensure that our past failures are acknowledged and not repeated. H.R. 683 demonstrates the regret felt by the House of Representatives for the passages of laws that targeted people of Chinese origin solely based upon their ethnicity.

The passage of this bill will make clear that we do not support those actions today. It is essential that we continue to aim for cultural acceptance and embrace the differences that make up the diversity of this country that sets us apart from any other nation.


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