Last month, as mentioned in the December Chairman’s Update, the Texas Asian Republican Assembly (taragop.org) and Texas Asian Republican Club of Houston commemorated the 70th Anniversary of the Repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act with a reception at Fung’s Kitchen in Houston. Over one hundred guests, including a number of Chinese American leaders, joined RPT Chairman Steve Munisteri and “Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the US Congress” author Martin Gold to learn about the history of the Chinese Exclusion Act and to celebrate the acts of Republican members of Congress to repeal the Act in 1943.
Keynote speaker Martin Gold, a legislative expert on the topic, provided a candid narrative of the history of Chinese naturalization in America, including the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the only race based immigration law passed by Congress. Although there were heroes and villains for each party, Republican Congressmen and Senators were largely on the side of the heroes, fighting against the efforts of Democrats to pass discriminatory legislation and later pressing for a repeal.
“I hold that every human soul has its rights, dependent upon individual personal worth and not dependent upon color or race… As this bill violates that principle, I am bound to record my protest, if I stand alone” –Sen. George Hoar (R-MA), April 16, 1902
Martin Gold also reflected upon his work on behalf of the Chinese American community for which he was honored with the “Champion of Justice” Award by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance: “Nothing has been as interesting, or as compelling, or as worthwhile, or as personally satisfying as this work.” Working with a non-partisan coalition of Chinese and Asian American leaders and their supporters, Gold—a partner at Covington & Burling, dedicated two years of pro-bono legal effort to seek a formal statement of regret from the US Congress for the Chinese Exclusion Act. Due to his efforts, Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), sponsored the legislation and on Oct. 6, 2011, the Senate unanimously passed S.R. 201. A year later, a similar resolution, H. Res. 282, passed unanimously in the House of Representatives. To read the resolution in its entirety, click here.
Chairman Steve Munisteri also served as a guest speaker for the night, sharing the story of Southern and Eastern European immigrants, including Italian nationals, who faced similar legislative discrimination in the first half of the 20th century. Munisteri reminded the audience of the importance of knowing and learning from our nation’s history, and encouraged the audience to get involved politically.
Dr. Martha Wong, the first Asian American elected to the Houston City Council and the Texas House of Representatives and the current president of TARA, emceed the event. Wong highlighted the great progress that has been made since the repeal of the Exclusion Act seventy years ago, pointing out the number of Asian American public officials at the event and their contributions to the state. She also introduced TARA, newly established in June of this year for the growing Asian American community in Texas to facilitate Asian American Republican involvement.
In recognition of anniversary, Chinese American Judge, Hon. Theresa Chang presented an official proclamation from Harris County through Judge Ed Emmett. Letters of recognition by Senator Ted Cruz and Texas House Representative Rick Miller were also presented. A large number of Republican elected officials also showed their support through their attendance at the event.