The 1882 Project: A nonpartisan, grassroots effort to address the Chinese Exclusion Laws
What are the Chinese Exclusion Laws? The Chinese Exclusion Laws involved legislation Congress passed between 1870 and 1904 that explicitly discriminated against persons of Chinese descent based on race. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which imposed a ten-year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration, which was later expanded to apply to all persons of Chinese descent. Congress revisited the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1884, 1888, 1892, 1902, and 1904, each time imposing increasingly severe restrictions on immigration and naturalization. Although the Chinese Exclusion Laws were repealed in 1943 as a war measure after China became a World War II ally of the United States, Congress has never expressly acknowledged that the laws singling out and ostracizing Chinese persons violated fundamental civil rights.
What significance and impact did the Chinese Exclusion Laws have? The six decades of anti-Chinese legislation contradicted the Declaration of Independence’s basic founding principle that all persons are created equal, and the guarantees of the 14th and 15th amendments. The Congressional debates accompanying the laws condoned anti-Chinese attitudes by frequently portraying Chinese immigrants as “aliens, not to be trusted with political rights” and not able to assimilate in America. By directly targeting persons of Chinese descent for physical and political exclusion, the laws legitimized the political alienation and persecution of Chinese laborers and settlers. In California alone, there were over 200 “roundups” to physically expel Chinese persons. The laws affected the ability of Chinese persons to pursue life in America without fear, and impaired the establishment of Chinese family life in America.
What is the 1882 Project? The 1882 Project is a nonpartisan, grassroots effort focused on educating lawmakers and the public the Chinese Exclusion Laws and the impact such legislation had on our history. The 1882 Project successfully worked with the 112th Congress to secure the passage of two resolutions (H Res. 683 and S. Res. 201) expressing regret for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Laws. Several national civil rights organizations spearhead the 1882 Project: the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, the Committee of 100, the Japanese American Citizens League, the National Council of Chinese Americans, and OCA.
What Congressional resolutions did we seek? The Congressional resolutions whose passage we helped secure formally acknowledge and express regret at the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Laws. Through the resolutions, Congress reaffirmed its commitment to protect the civil rights of all people in the United States. We did not seek any monetary reparations because it is impossible to identify all the individuals harmed and to quantify the harm meaningfully. We asked Congress to pass the resolutions because only a sitting Congress has the power to acknowledge history and to make amends. The Senate passed S. Res. 201 on October 6, 2011, and the House passed H. Res. 683 on June 18, 2012. We were only able to achieve this through the tireless leadership of Representative Judy Chu and Senator Scott Brown, who sponsored the resolutions and championed our cause, the numerous Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle that co-sponsored the legislation, and our countless supporters and advocates.
How did you help? Congress acts when it hears from concerned citizens who urge it to prioritize and pass the resolutions on the Chinese Exclusion Laws. Constituents who support the 1882 Project contacted their Members of Congress to let them know how important the resolutions are to them, and educated others about the 1882 Project. We hope that the 1882 Project will continue to enjoy widespread support. Please donate to the 1882 Project to help fund our education efforts to ensure that future generations learn about the Chinese Exclusion Laws and the resolutions expressing regret for their passage.