By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent
135 years after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a rally will be held this Saturday in the heart of San Francisco Chinatown to say no more exclusion.
A coalition of community groups and activists has organized a Rally for Inclusion fearing what happened 135 years ago is being repeated against Muslims and immigrants today.
“On the 135th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act, those of us who know too well the tragic consequences of Exclusion must stand in defense and solidarity with Muslims, immigrants, and refugees who are being targeted today,” said author and historian Judy Yung to AsAmNews. “Excluding immigrants on the basis of race, national origin, or religion was wrong then and it’s wrong now.”
The Exclusion Act was the first law in the country to ban immigration on the basis of race. It was extended numerous times and not officially rescinded until 1943, 61 years after it was first passed. By then, the country’s xenophobia had switched from the Chinese to the Japanese.
Some 45 diverse groups are sponsoring the event ranging from the Chinatown YMCA and Wu Yee Children’s Services to Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Organization of Chinese Americans. More than a dozen individual activists, religious leaders and educators are also listed as sponsors.
“The 135th anniversary and rally for inclusion we’re organizing in the oldest Chinatown in this country is very significant and a personal tribute to my dad & his generation,” said Rev Norman Fong to AsAmNews. The executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center and Parish Associate for the Presbyterian Church explained. “Learning about the Chinese Exclusion Act has helped me to better understand what my parents went through in their lives. I often wondered why my father hardly ever talked about Angel Island (that he had to go through)and the discrimination he face during the time of the Exclusion Act. More importantly, it should remind us to stand up and speak out when other immigrant communities begin to face what we have faced.”
The group is sponsoring a resolution calling on the city of San Francisco and other cities throughout the country to join them in marking the passage of the anniversary and drawing parallels between what happened in 1882 and what is happening today.
“(President) Trump has used false assumptions and public prejudices to pander to his support base and to justify his anti-immigration policies,” said Yung. “Chinese laborers were stereotyped as coolies, heathens, criminals, and unassimilable aliens. Trump claims that all Muslims are potential terrorists and all undocumented immigrants are “bad hombres” and criminals—justifying his call for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country and increased border enforcement to stop, detain, and deport all unauthorized immigrants.”
Yung said that the President’s proposed ban on refugees from entering the country based on security concerns is unnecessary because extreme vetting already occurs.
Syrian refugees, according to USA Today, wait an average of 18 to 24 months before being approved for entry. They are screened by the FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. State Department, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Further background checks are conducted before they can be granted a green card and later become naturalized U.S. citizens.
“My home church, where I serve as a Parish Associate, our church opened up the first medical clinic because the Chinese were excluded from entering hospitals, schools, jobs… Without remembering, we will forget about our core values of human compassion and social justice. So speak out everyone,” urged Fong.
“As a people who know too well the tragic consequences of Exclusion, Chinese Americans must stick their necks out on behalf of Muslims, immigrants, and refugees who are being targeted today,” added Yung. “As a country that has benefitted greatly from the contributions of immigrants, it is the responsibility of all Americans to help fulfill the promise of our Constitution for a more perfect union.”
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