The California State Senate took formal action today to unanimously pass a resolution authored by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), which calls upon Congress to formally apologize for the 1882 adoption of the Chinese Exclusion Act. That measure, signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur, was the first federal law ever passed excluding a group of immigrants solely on the basis of race or nationality. It brought a halt to Chinese immigration and also prevented Chinese immigrants from becoming citizens of the United States.
Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 23 acknowledges and celebrates the rich history and contributions of Chinese Americans in California. The resolution also formally calls on Congress to apologize for laws which resulted in the persecution of Chinese Americans.
“This Legislature and Congress have already taken commendable action to recognize one of the darkest days in the history of this country by stating official regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act,” said Senator Huff. “But an expression of “regret” is different from an actual apology. Regret is ambiguous and may or may not imply guilt. An apology is clear, expressing both regret and responsibility.”
The Chinese Exclusion Act, which originally expired in 1892, was extended by Congress for 10 years in the form of the Geary Act and made permanent in 1902. It remained in effect until it was repealed in 1943 as a result of the alliance forged between China and the United States during World War II.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a formal resolution in June 2012 that expressed regret by the House of Representatives for the enactment Chinese Exclusion Act. The U.S. Senate previously approved the measure in October 2011.
SJR 23 states, in part:
It is important that the United States Congress make a formal and sincere apology for the enactment of the discriminatory laws that adversely affected Chinese Americans, so that democracy, justice, and equality for all of its citizens can be achieved, and to strengthen the diversity in the United States that contributes to the country’s economic, cultural, technological, academic, and political growth.
“Congress has issued similar apologies in many other circumstances,” said Senator Huff. “Congress issued previous apologies for the enactment of discriminatory legislation to the Japanese Americans in 1988, the Native Hawaiians in 1993, African Americans in 2008 and 2009 and to Native Americans in 2009.”
SJR 23 next moves to the State Assembly. It has the support of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance – Greater San Gabriel Valley Lodge (source), Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA), American and Chinese World War II Memorial Monument Association, Association for Preserving Historical Accuracy of Foreign Invasions in China, Chew Lun Association, Confucius Institute at San Diego State University, Joint Chinese University Alumni Association of Southern California (JCUAA), the County of Los Angeles and the San Diego Chinese American Association.