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CAPAC Members Mark 135th Anniversary of Chinese Exclusion Act

WASHINGTON – May 6 marked the 135th anniversary of the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was the first law to expressly target and prohibit a specific group from immigrating to the United States.

Rep. Judy Chu

The law was signed by President Chester A. Arthur and imposed a ten-year ban on Chinese immigration or naturalization. It was reauthorized and expanded several times in the following decades, and was not repealed until 1943.

In 2012, Congress passed a bipartisan resolution introduced by CAPAC Chair Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), which formally expressed regret for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. To commemorate anniversary, CAPAC members released the following statements:

Rep. Chu: “The Chinese Exclusion Act was one of the most discriminatory laws ever passed in our nation’s history, and it left permanent scars on the Chinese American community. It split families apart, created a second-class citizenry, and disenfranchised an entire ethnic community. In fact, my own grandfather who had been here legally since 1904 was forced to carry a certificate of registration at all times for almost 40 years, or risk deportation.

“Unfortunately, 135 years after the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law, our nation is once again debating whether an entire group of people should be banned from entering the United States based on their country of origin. This is unacceptable. Now more than ever, we must ensure that policies targeting immigrants, Muslims, and refugees, like President Trump’s un-American Muslim ban, do not succeed. The Chinese Exclusion Act was one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history, and we cannot allow history to repeat itself.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.): “As we commemorate the 135th anniversary of the this law, which was one of the earliest measures – but certainly not the latest – placing restrictions on immigration by a specific ethnic group, we must recognize the vital contributions made by the AAPI community to our nation’s culture, infrastructure, and military, including over 13,000 Chinese American veterans who served during World War II.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.): “The Chinese Exclusion Act, enacted 135 years ago today, was a dark mark in our in our nation’s history. Steeped in prejudice and bigotry, it was the first law to prevent a specific ethnic group from entering the United States, despite the fact that Chinese laborers made vital contributions to the United States, such as by helping to build the Transcontinental Railroad. Only in 1943 was this law repealed.

“On the 135th anniversary of this terrible law, may we reflect on our true identity as a nation of immigrants, a nation that does not discriminate based on race, national origin, or religion, a nation that promotes opportunity for all.”

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