Senate Apologizes for Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

The U.S. Senate issues an apology for banning Chinese immigrants from the country during the Gold Rush.

By Jorge Rivas Oct 11, 2011

Last week, the U.S. Senate approved a resolution apologizing for past discriminatory laws that targeted Chinese immigrants, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The resolution, SR201, was sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Scott Brown, R-Mass.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first major law restricting immigration to the United States. The Act excluded Chinese "skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining" from entering the country for ten years under penalty of imprisonment and deportation. It was introduced during California’s Gold Rush and was signed into law to decrease the number of foreign immigrants searching for gold.

The resolution passed Thursday night, by unanimous consent, "cannot undo the hurt caused by past discrimination against Chinese immigrants, but it is important that we acknowledge the wrongs that were committed many years ago," Sen. Brown, the lead sponsor, said according to the LA Times.

The law was repealed in 1943 after China became a U.S. ally in World War II. But the strict immigration quotas continued for years later. It was not until the Immigration Act of 1965, which eliminated previous national-origins policies, that Chinese immigration to the United States was allowed without stringent restrictions.

Sen. Feinstein said Friday she hopes the resolution will serve to "enlighten those who may not be aware of this regrettable chapter in our history and bring closure to the families whose loved ones lived through this difficult time.”

The vote cleared the way for a companion bill in the House by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park (Los Angeles County), who is the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress.