Asian Americans and Congress: A Documentary History

Asian Americans and Congress: A Documentary History

Asian Americans and Congress: A Documentary History

Asian Americans and Congress: A Documentary History

Synopsis

With California's passage of the Save Our State Initiative in 1994, fear of aliens has once again appeared in U.S. legislative history. Since 1790, congressional legislation on federal immigration and naturalization policy has been harsh on Asian immigrants, although less so since 1965. This documentary history covers all major immigration laws passed by Congress since 1790. The volume opens with an overview of the basis on which Congress has restricted Asian immigration. It then includes discussions of particular immigration legislation, showing the significance to Asian Americans and the documents themselves.

Excerpt

Thomas E. Stuen

I am fortunate to know Professor Kim "up close and personal," sharing civic concerns at school, sport, music and church events in Bellingham, Washington. We have solved several of the world's problems that way, or so it seemed. His energy and effort to foster human communication and understanding is an inspiration to all who work with him.

This documentary history studies the U.S. Congress in its deliberations related to Asians. It is largely a sad story, each Congress adding to the unjust acts of its predecessors. From the blatant discrimination of the 1790 naturalization law's "free white person," to the subtle perpetuation of the past in the quantitative and qualitative competition of the 1965 Immigration Act, the evidence of racial bias is readily apparent. Too often, the laws which were passed reflect the basest fears and insecurities of the electorate.

Yet more so than in the saga of Professor Kim's prior work, Asian Americans and the Supreme Court: A Documentary History, there is in the congressional debates a frequent challenge to the prevailing prejudices. Stirring statements of principle appear in some of the debates, for example, Senator Stewart's defense of civil rights for Asians under the Enforcement Acts and Senator Sumner's Fourth of July speech of 1870 in favor of Chinese naturalization. At other times, including the adoption of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, nondiscriminatory laws were adopted in spite of inflammatory Fascist oratory such as the speech of Representative Higby in 1866, or of Senator Corbett in 1869.

Within the legislative record is revealed inspiring glimpses of personal character such as how former Representative Anson Burlingame became first the United States' ambassador to China, and then later China's ambassador to the U.S. Also noteworthy is President Truman's veto message of the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act.

This history illustrates certainly the past evil influence of bias on the legislative process, but also holds promise for the future in the slow but definite trend toward fairness to Asian immigrants. To those nations new to the task of melding divergent cultures, this history offers much that is instructive. To those who would lead the United States, this history is a valuable reminder of the dangerous effects of racial bias.

Thomas E. Stuen Attorney at Law Bellingham, Washington . . .

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