California resolution apologizes for anti-Chinese legislation

State Senate calls on U.S. Congress to formally apologize for Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

Well, isn't it about time? Last week, the California State Senate unanimously passed resolutions calling upon U.S. Congress to formally apologize for the enactment of the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and formally apologizing for past California anti-Chinese legislation.

California Resolution for Apology to Chinese Americans Passes Unanimously

Senate Joint Resolution 23, as amended, is a request by the California Legislature to the Congress for the adoption of resolutions of apology to the Chinese American community for enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and other similar Chinese Exclusion Laws.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 122 is a formal apology of the California State Legislature for the enactment of past discriminatory laws and anti-Chinese constitutional provisions that resulted increased restrictions and hardships on the Chinese living in California.

Both resolutions were unanimously by the State Senate on Thursday.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur in 1882, extended by Congress for 10 years in the form of the Geary Act, made permanent in 1902, and remained in effect until it was repealed in 1943. It was the first federal law ever passed excluding a group of immigrants solely on the basis of race or nationality. The measure brought a halt to Chinese immigration, tore families apart, prohibited citizenship, served as a national narrative tone for discrimination against the Chinese.

In short, it was one of the most one of the most racist laws ever passed by the United States government.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a formal resolution in June 2012 that expressed "regret" by the House of Representatives for the enactment Chinese Exclusion Act. The U.S. Senate previously approved the measure in October 2011. However, State Senator Bob Huff, who introduced SJR, explains, "An expression of 'regret' is different from an actual apology. Regret is ambiguous and may or may not imply guilt. An apology is clear, expressing both regret and responsibility."

SJR 23 states, in part:

It is important that the United States Congress make a formal and sincere apology for the enactment of the discriminatory laws that adversely affected Chinese Americans, so that democracy, justice, and equality for all of its citizens can be achieved, and to strengthen the diversity in the United States that contributes to the country's economic, cultural, technological, academic, and political growth.

Congress has issued similar apologies in many other circumstances, including formal apologies to Japanese Americans in 1988, Native Hawaiians in 1993, African Americans in 2008 and 2009, and Native Americans in 2010. The State of California issued apologies for Mexican Repatriation in 2005, as well as apologies to Italian Americans in 2010, Filipino Americans in 2011, and Japanese Americans in 2013.

SJR 23 and SCR 122 now move on for approval by the California State Assembly.

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