Transcript: Remarks by Del. Eni Faleomayaega on H.R. 683 expressing regret for Chinese exclusion laws

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of House floor remarks by Del. Eni Faleomayaega (D-American Samoa) on H.R. 683 “Expressing the regret of the House of Representatives for the passage of laws that adversely affected the Chinese in the United States, including the Chinese Exclusion Act” on June 18, 2012:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of House Resolution 683, a resolution of regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

“The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first major law restricting immigration to the United States to enforce a 10-year moratorium on Chinese immigrant laborers and denying naturalization to those who were already in the United States.

“Enacted on the premise that Chinese laborers – and I quote – ‘endanger the good order of certain localities’, the law was largely motivated by economic fears by our fellow Americans who felt that Chinese laborers were to blame for unemployment and the declining wages of the West.

“Through the Gerry Act of 1892, the Chinese Exclusion Act was extended for another 10 years before becoming permanent in 1902. And it was only repealed by the Magnuson Act of 1943 when China became an ally of the United States during World War II. Even then, the new law only allowed 105 Chinese immigrants per year, a much lower quota than immigrant quotas from other countries and regions of the world.

“Large-scale Chinese immigration was only finally allowed again with the Immigration Act of 1965 – some 80 years after the Chinese Exclusion Act. Like their counterparts from European countries, Chinese immigrants in the 19th century came to the United States in search of opportunities for a better life.

“Since the first wave of Chinese immigrants in the United States, Chinese-American community has contributed greatly to the development of our nation. And it is a shame that these discriminatory practices and laws – fear-based laws – split up Chinese families and prevented them for decades from pursuing the American dream.

“For example, Chinese laborers made up the majority of the Central Pacific railroad network workforce that had connected the first transcontinental railroad through the Sierra Mountains into the Western states. And of course that final spike was done in the state of Utah. The completion of the railroad with the help of these Chinese laborers would later mobilize other industries and pave the way for a more connected and prosperous America.

“But the Chinese Exclusion Act, Mr. Speaker, the first law restricting entry of an ethnic working group, stifled Chinese immigrants’ ability to lend their skills to the betterment of our nation and become a part of the American family.

“Because this law was validated by leaders in our nation, it gave credence to the underlying notion that certain groups did not deserve fair treatment in our nation.

“The policy sent a clear message that Chinese immigrants were not qualified for the American dream.

“Furthermore, it set a precedent for later policies against immigrant groups such as the National Origins Act of 1929, which barred Asian immigration, and our shameful policy of forcing some 100,000 Americans born in the United States but who happen to be of Japanese ancestry.

“This is the reason why I always admired our nation, Mr. Speaker, and our form of democracy, and that is it tries to correct its mistakes from the past. While our nation has come a long ways since this legislation was enacted 130 years ago, let us continually be reminded in our diverse country to uphold the founding principle of our nation – that all men and women are to be treated equally and fairly under the law.”

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3 Comments on “Transcript: Remarks by Del. Eni Faleomayaega on H.R. 683 expressing regret for Chinese exclusion laws

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