In rare apology, House regrets exclusionary laws targeting Chinese
Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, sponsored a resolution that apologized for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
June 19th, 2012
12:47 PM ET

In rare apology, House regrets exclusionary laws targeting Chinese

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - The United States has apologized to African-Americans, Japanese, Native Americans and Hawaiians for wrongs in the name of government. Now it has made that rare apology to Chinese-Americans for discriminatory laws adopted 130 years ago.

The House of Representatives passed a resolution Monday expressing regret for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which imposed severe restrictions on Chinese immigration and naturalization and denied Chinese-Americans basic freedoms because of their race.

The apology reverberated across the nation and the Pacific.

"We have made history!!!!" read a news flash on the website of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance. And the story was carried by Xinhua, China's state-run news agency.

The House regret came on a resolution sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, who is the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress.

For Chu, the apology was deeply personal.

"It is for my grandfather and for all Chinese-Americans that we must pass this resolution, for those who were told for six decades by the U.S. government that the land of the free wasn't open to them," Chu said on the House floor.

"We must finally and formally acknowledge these ugly laws that were incompatible with America's founding principles," she said.

She told her fellow lawmakers how her grandfather did not have the legal right to become a citizen, how he was forced to register and carry a certificate of residence at all times for almost 40 years, or else face deportation. He could be saved only if a white person vouched for him.

Chu said the Senate "did its part to right history" by passing its own resolution last October. She implored the House to do the same.

The Chinese came to America, as do all immigrants, searching for a better life.

"Their blood, sweat and tears built the first transcontinental railroad, connecting the people of our nation," Chu said. "They opened our mines, constructed the levees and became the backbone of farm production."

But as the economy soured in the 1870s, Chu said, the Chinese were made scapegoats.

"They were called racial slurs, were spat upon in the streets and even brutally murdered," she said.

They were known as the "Mongolian horde," and on April 17, 1882, the House passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, signed by President Chester Arthur.

Over the years, the act became more discriminatory, scarring many generations of Chinese-Americans. It was repealed in 1943 after China became an ally in World War II.

Congress has issued apologies to groups of people before, including to African-Americans for slavery, to Japanese for internment camps, to Native Americans for violence, neglect and mistreatment, and to Hawaiians for the overthrow of their monarchy.

"Today is historic," Chu said.

"This is a very significant day in the Chinese-American community. It is an expression that discrimination has no place in our society and that the promise of equality is available to all."

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Filed under: Asian in America • Discrimination • History • How we look • Immigration • Politics • Race
soundoff (71 Responses)

    They were known as the "Mongolian horde," and on April 17, 1882, the House passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, signed by President Chester Arthur. THERE WAS A PRESIDENT CHESTER ARTHUR????????? ET HE WAS EXCITING LIKE ROMNEY

    June 20, 2012 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
  2. Hester Crumb

    Acknowledging the past allows us to move on into the future.

    June 20, 2012 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
    • rory

      What is the point to apologise when it's not sincere. Also when you read all the comments here and make you wonder is it better off to educate people first in general is more important.

      June 20, 2012 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Dorothy

    People in my opinion generally should not waste time apologizing for the actions of their long deceased ancestors, generations and generations ago, until they stand in their shoes. What other types of historical events will Congress seek to address next? Don't the members have anything more current to worry about?

    June 19, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      I'm willing to bet 90% of Chinese Americans do more important work than you do. I'm pretty sure you're a huge loser.

      June 19, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adlas

      You're an idiot, have you even been to China? 10% economic growth a year, most millionaires in the world, booming thriving economy and culture. It's the 'whites' that are envious and desperate to seek Chinese patronage. Who do you think holds the most US debt? China. Why else do you think the House would apologise to Chinese. They desperately need Chinese money to keep their country from going bankrupt. Idiot.

      June 19, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      I agree Dorothy, why doesn't Congress apologize for favoring the wealthy (a small percentage of Americans) over the vast majority of Americans who saw most or all of their savings and net worth evaporate due to a financial crises created by the greed of the wealthy! It seems far more relevant today.

      June 20, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
      • Old Paratrooper

        Favor the rich!!??? All our money goes to two places: To the lazy slugs on welfare, who get medicaid, food stamps, public housing, cellphones; and Congress. Give me a break and educate yourself. Today 51% 0f Americans support 49%. How is that sustainable? Why do we have deficits? Why do we have the highest corporate taxes in the world? Why do we have 15% unemployment? Why? Why? Because democrats want it that way.

        June 20, 2012 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
      • Thomas

        Old Paratrooper, seems to me you need to educate yourself... or else you missed the entire point of my comment or more likely BOTH! I love how people like you try to pin this all on Democrats or all on Republicans... shows your true ignorance... or maybe you're just a rich politician and I hit a nerve.

        June 20, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
      • young paratrooper

        Old Paratrooper I'm confused 51% of Americans support 49%? That would imply almost half of Americans are on some type of government assistance. Do you realize also that if you are talking about the 51% of Americans that they say pay no taxes isn't what people are actually making it to be. The fact is 51% of Americans get a refund or have no tax payment due on April 15th. Now for everyone that post that ridiculous comment think about whether or not you recieved a tax refund.

        June 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Trust me no one has envy for white people anymore, look at the laws and tell me which racial group has the least amount of rights... YEP that correct WHITE AMERICANS...but of course no one cares because only white people can be racist... when will we actually have equal rights for everyone.

      June 20, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
      • Gethetruth

        To begin with, the Whites had all the rights for themselves, others got some only when they demanded it.

        June 22, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |

      II don't agree with you. It is not a person who apologize for what his grandfather did. It is the apology from the government for the passing the law–that has hurt, insulted, abused a specific race for over 60 years, how many generations, at least two generations.

      June 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. david

    china has changed a lot.if u go there u will be stunned,their culture, tradition all changed.once there was a stable social system now its worse.chinese girls were good to marry but now they are the expert on cheating.their mind totally changed.its already becoming a free country only GOD knows what would happen to this country.it will be a worse place for raising children.i think chinese government should do something about it.its also happening because they don't have any religion,that's the most scary thing when people don't follow any religion,most scary thing more than billion people.

    June 19, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • david

      sorry not all the girls but i found many girls like this who has bf but they don't mind to go out with the other boys and do anything with them.sorry if i hurt chinese people.but that is the truth cz im the victim.i had many chinese female friends and they did like this.i really don't know why suddenly chinese girls changed their mind so suddenly.their social system will be unstable.i think chinese government and the families should do something about it.

      June 19, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
      • Ronin1871

        You sound bitter, probably rejected by many Chinese girls. I don't think they like obese people.

        June 19, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. SOA

    Well done! Truly surprised that law was still on the books. God bless America and we are all equal. I just with China would get the message and change their behavior.

    June 19, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronin1871

      I'll second that if America prosecutes Bush and Co. for illegally invading Iraq using lies and trickery.

      June 19, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. angryboomer

    And what about China's own immigration controls? China.org.cn has this blunt and direct summary about immigration to China:

    China is not an immigrant country. No law or regulations are set permitting immigration. A foreigner is only allowed to reside here for reasons of work, study, travel, or marriage over a certain period of time.
    Sounds like the Chinese want China to remain Chinese. And there's nothing wrong with that – preserving your traditional culture is what sovereignty is all about.

    June 19, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronin1871

      USA is a country built on immigration. China is not. Either way everyone has to be treated equally.

      June 20, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
    • EuroZone Observer


      June 20, 2012 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |

      USA was a new and young country in 1882, opened its door to everybody, free entry, but with this Chinese exclusion act based on racism. Do you think it is right? Those Chinese labors worked so hard, many of them gave their life to this land, but did not have any human right, does it sound right to you?

      China has a history of at least 2000 years, USA is above 200years. I believe after another 1800 years USA does not have space for large amount new immigrants any more. Even now, USA is not free entry, all immigrants need to wait to be approved.

      June 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
      • @ChineseRage

        I would like to apologize to General Tso, General Tao, General Gau, and General Tang for not ordering your chicken dish last night because of MSG. Me so solly.

        February 9, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wagnertinatlanta

    I'm so glad that Congress has got through all the necessary work on their agenda like passing the budget and has time to apologize for a 130-year-old insult to the Chinese. GET BACK TO WORK, YOU CLOWNS!

    June 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. torqueflite

    Good, that's a start. Now, let's abolish the so-called "Defense of Marriage" Act and apologize to all the gay Americans it has hurt.

    June 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bernie Leung

    Thanks for the great work. It takes a big heart to admit one's wrong. But let's don't forget this lesson learned.
    What a Great Day for Our Country!

    June 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. TONG

    Thanks to Judy Chu,

    June 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sagar

      Thanks for bringing this to my atnettion! We have a few clients traveling to Zambia in June and I'm sure they would LOVE to hear about this amazing special! I have no yet heard of Avocado Spa but I love the name and it looks very chic. Thanks!

      September 14, 2012 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. Benjamin Zhao

    Thank you all have contributed to this action. This country can only get better after we say goodbye to the old wounds caused by historical injustices.

    June 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Emma Jo

    Let learn from the past and move on.

    June 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |