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Articles > Biggert wants Congress to apologize for past treatment of Chinese-Americans

May 28, 2011
by Sun Times Staff

Biggert wants Congress to apologize for past treatment of Chinese-Americans  


U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Hinsdale) was among five members of Congress Thursday who announced the introduction of a resolution calling on Congress to express regret for anti-Chinese laws approved at the turn of the 20th century.

Biggert, whose district includes Naperville, was joined by U.S. Reps. Judy Chu of California and Mike Coffman of Colorado, along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

“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,” Biggert said. “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.”

Chu said the measure is close to her heart, since she is the first Chinese-American congresswoman.

“A century ago, the Chinese came here in search of a better life. But they faced harsh conditions, particularly in the halls of Congress,” she said. “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.

“It is long overdue that Congress officially acknowledges these ugly laws, and expresses the sincere regret that Chinese Americans deserve,” she said.

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 10-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.

Although the Chinese Exclusion Laws were repealed in 1943 as a war measure after China became a World War II ally of the United States, Congress has never formally acknowledged that the laws singling out and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.

“One-hundred and 29 years ago, just 13 years after the last spike was driven into the first transcontinental railroad, the Congress of the United States strayed from the path laid by our founders and implemented the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882,” Biggert said. “This 10-year ban on Chinese immigration and naturalization targeted Chinese immigrants for physical and political exclusion, and was driven by an unfortunate mix of racism, jingoism, and intolerance.

 “In subsequent years, Congress then expanded and hardened these laws, making it impossible for legal Chinese workers to re-enter America, gain their citizenship and often reunite with their families,” she said. “It wasn’t until the U.S.-Chinese alliance of World War II that Congress repealed these laws.”

, and restored the rights of Chinese-Americans.”