Boston’s Chinese Community Thanks Senator Brown for Senate’s Apology for Chinese Exclusion Act

By David Li,

In the evening of October 20, 2012, about 300 Chinese People of Greater Boston and New England held an appreciation party for Senator Scott Brown at Empire Garden restaurant. They thanked Senator Brown’s contribution in passing resolution S.Res.201 – A resolution expressing the regret of the Senate for the passage of discriminatory laws against the Chinese in America, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in the US Senate on October 6, 2011. Also in attendance were members of the Vietnamese, Korean, and Cambodian communities.

Mass. State Rep. Donald Wong, Dr. Robert Guen and Ted Wu were friends when they grew up in Boston Chinatown They spoke about the trauma and pain the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 had brought to generations of Chinese immigrants, including their grandparents, until 1943. They thanked Senator Brown’s sincerely for his effort in sponsoring S.Res.201.

Ted Wu brought a photocopy of his grandfather’s passport that had a footnote: special Chinese series. He mentioned that the appreciation party for Scott Brown was overdue.

In his speech, Senator Brown emphasized that he had been working hard for all the people of Massachusetts since he came to the Senate, and was the second most bipartisan senator. He stressed that the passing of S.Res.201 was a good example of bipartisan work. Simon Chan interpreted Senate Brown’s speech into Cantonese. Tony Yee, who hosted the party, mentioned that Scott Brown was the first US Senate coming to Boston Chinatown for events other than fundraising in 50 years.

Shi-Ang Yee, a 84-year-old resident of Boston Chinatown, thanked Senate Brown’s leadership in taking the initiative to pass the resolution expressing apology for Chinese Exclusion Act. He also asked about Senator Brown’s stand on the tough Arizona immigration law. Senator Brown replied that it has been struck down by the US Supreme Court.

Kheny Nguyen, a representative from the Vietnamese community, expressed his thanks to Republican presidents Ford and Reagan for helping 150,000 refugees from South Vietnam to resettle in the US. President Ford deployed US military in assisting refugees from South Vietnam, and President Reagan allowed boat people from Vietnam to enter the US, mentioned Mr. Nguyen.

Senator Brown was the lead sponsor of a bipartisan group that supported the resolution. Senators joining Brown as co-sponsors were: Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); Orrin Hatch (R-UT); Patty Murray (D-WA); Benjamin Cardin (D-MD); Marco Rubio (R-FL); Daniel Akaka (D-HI); Thomas Carper (D-DE); Christopher Coons (D-DE); Mark Kirk (R-IL); and John Hoeven (R-ND).

“I am proud to have led the charge in the Senate to pass a resolution expressing regret for discriminatory laws against the Chinese in America and today I applaud the House for taking the same action. These resolutions were long overdue, but are meaningful to raise awareness about this unfortunate history,” Senator Brown stated upon learning that the US House of Repetitiveness passed a similar resolution on June 18, 2012.

For six decades (61 years), from March 9, 1882 to 1943, the Chinese Exclusion Act was in effect and strictly enforced in the United States. Some facts about the Chinese Exclusion Act:

– prohibited skilled and unskilled Chinese laborers from entering the United States;
– was the first Federal law excluding a single group of people on the basis of race;
– required certain Chinese laborers, who were already legal residents of the United States, to obtain ‘certificates of return’ from their travel, a requirement that only applied to Chinese residents.

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