On Sunday, President Joe Biden commemorated the 80th anniversary of the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, emphasizing that the discriminatory law contradicted the foundational principle of equality.
Biden’ statement: In an issued statement, Biden acknowledged the act’s history of targeting Chinese immigrants and how its contributions to broader anti-immigrant sentiments.
“Our nation was founded on the fundamental idea that we are created equal and deserve to be treated equally,” Biden said. “But for 61 years, the Chinese Exclusion Act failed to live up to that promise. It weaponized our immigration system to discriminate against an entire ethnic group and was followed by further discrimination against many in Europe and all of Asia.”
Remembrance and solidarity: The president expressed remembrance for those negatively affected by the act and praised voices of solidarity against it, noting the ongoing struggle against hate and intolerance. Biden celebrated the contributions of people of Chinese heritage to the nation and emphasized the importance of unity and diversity in strengthening the United States.
“On this anniversary, we remember those whose lives, families and communities were irreparably harmed,” he said. “We remember the brave and diverse voices – from Frederick Douglass to Blanche Bruce to Pearl Buck to the American Jewish Committee and so many others – who spoke up in solidarity against that Act and demanded a fairer and more just immigration system…Today, there are those who still demonize immigrants and fan the flames of intolerance.”
CAPAC Resolutions: Furthermore, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair Representative Judy Chu and executive member Mazie Hirono introduced resolutions in both the House and Senate. Chu emphasized the historical significance, recounting her grandfather’s experience under the law. Although the repeal in 1943 is recognized as a crucial step towards equality for Chinese Americans, the lawmakers expressed concerns about rising anti-China sentiment and emphasize the ongoing need to address issues such as alien land laws and anti-Asian hate. Chu urges collective efforts to prevent history from repeating itself.
About the Chinese Exclusion Act: In 1882, former President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act to suspend Chinese immigration for 10 years and limit the rights of those already in America. The act, marked by racism and xenophobia, was a component of the broader anti-Chinese “Driving Out” era, characterized by incidents like the Rock Springs and Hells Canyon massacres.