All the talks about travel ban, exclusion of refugees from certain countries, extra vetting of refugees, and building the wall, all in the name of protecting U.S. citizens – our safety and our jobs – remind me of the ugly history of Chinese immigration to the U.S.
Here is a chronology of what happened, with some of my comments and family’s immigration history in parenthesis:
- 1882, The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Chester A. Arthur. This was the first significant federal law that restricted immigration into the United States of an ethnic working group on the premise that it “endangered the good order of certain localities.” This act also excluded Chinese from citizenship by naturalization. (Chinese laborers were blamed for the bad economy at the time echoing what is being said about Mexicans today.)
- From 1910 through 1940, Chinese Immigrants were detained and interrogated at Angel Island San Francisco Bay sometimes for years. U.S. Officials hoped to deport as many as possibly by asking obscure questions about Chinese villages and family histories that immigrants would have trouble answering correctly. (I think this is what “extra vetting” might look like. See photos of Angel Island.)
- 1924, Immigration Act declared that no one ineligible for citizenship may immigrate.
- 1948, Congress passed Displaced Persons Act to give permanent resident status to 3,500 Chinese visitors, seamen, and students caught in the U.S. because of the Chinese civil war.
- 1952, McCarran-Walter Act made Chinese immigrants, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades, eligible for citizenship.
- 1953, Refugee Act allowed 3,000 Chinese into U.S. as refugees of Chinese civil war.
- 1960, President Kennedy signed a directive permitting refugees from mainland China to enter the U.S. as parolees from Hong Kong. (My aunt, my father’s sister, and her 5 children qualified under this directive and they immigrated to the U.S. as refugees. All her children grew up to be business owners and engineers.)
- 1965 Public Law 89-236 permits Chinese from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and Latin America to immigrate to the U.S. (Through this law, my aunt applied for my father’s. My parents, with 3 children, myself included, immigrated to the U.S. in 1970.)
(1970, my aunt’s family and my family together when we first arrived in Augusta Georgia.)
I am sharing this history because I want us to learn from this ugly chapter of history so that we do not repeat the oppression imposed on any ethnic and religious group now and in the future.
Reflection Questions for 7th Sunday after Epiphany (Year A)
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
Eric H. F. Law
For competent leadership in a diverse changing world