Excerpt from the 1882 Project website:
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 Although the Chinese Exclusion Laws were repealed in 1943 as a war measure after China became a World War II ally of the United States, Congress has never expressly acknowledged that the laws singling out and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 aims to work with Congress to pass resolutions expressing regret for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Laws, and to increase national awareness of the laws. Several national civil rights organizations spearhead the 1882 Project: the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, the Committee of 100, the National Council of Chinese Americans, and OCA.
What Congressional resolutions do we want? We want Congress to formally acknowledge and express regret at the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Laws. Through the resolutions, Congress can reaffirm its commitment to protect the civil rights of all people in the United States. We do not seek any monetary reparations because it is impossible to identify all the individuals harmed and to quantify the harm meaningfully. We hope to get the House and Senate to each pass a resolution during the 112bthb Congress (2011-2012). We are asking this Congress to pass the resolutions because only a sitting Congress has the power to acknowledge history and to make amends. Congress needs to act now, before the last living generation subject to the Chinese Exclusion laws leave us.
How can you help? Congress will only act if it hears from concerned citizens who urge it to prioritize and pass the resolutions on the Chinese Exclusion Laws. Contact your Members of Congress to let them know how important the resolutions are to you. Educate others about the 1882 Project and encourage them to contact their Members of Congress. You can also donate to the 1882 Project to help us fund our advocacy and education efforts.