In a move that harkens back to the Japanese American redress days, the U.S. Senate has passed a resolution that apologizes to the Chinese for the discriminatory laws they once endured in this country, including the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.
Senate resolution 201 passed by unanimous consent on Oct. 6. The bill now heads to the House where it will have a more difficult time with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, saying that he will not bring the issue to the floor for discussion.
This “cannot undo the hurt caused by past discrimination against Chinese immigrants, but it is important that we acknowledge the wrongs that were committed many years ago,” said Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass, the lead sponsor of the Senate resolution in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
The companion bill in the House is sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte, the first Chinese American woman to be elected to Congress whose grandfather was among those Chinese who were forced to face these discriminatory laws.
“The thousands of Chinese Americans around this country with similar family histories will celebrate the passage of the Senate resolution,” said Chu to the Times. Her grandfather operated a Chinese restaurant in Watts, working long hours to make ends meet.
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banned Chinese from becoming U.S. citizens and had the effect of halting Chinese immigration to this country for a decade. The law was eventually repealed in 1943 once China became a U.S. ally during World War II.
The Senate resolution noted that large-scale immigration by the Chinese took place during California’s Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. It was during this time that the U.S. government approved the building of the first transcontinental railroad during the Civil War. Many Chinese immigrants were recruited by the railroad companies to build the Pacific portions of the tracks.
The resolution explained that these Chinese workers “faced grueling hours and extremely harsh conditions in order to lay hundreds of miles of track and were paid substandard wages” and without their efforts construction would have been “seriously impeded.”