Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Never forget

While we're talking about immigration reform here, let's not forget that Chinese Americans and Asian Americans have long been considered less than scum by institutions of power in America, and that we were the ONLY group to be excluded from this country for immigration purposes based solely on race.

In the landmark US Supreme Court decision Plessy v Ferguson, which upheld that segregation of blacks and whites was legal on railroads, it was a 7-1 vote against the mixed race plaintiff, Homer Plessy. The only justice who dissented, John Marshall Harlan, wrote that it was a decision that would come to be viewed in the most negative light:

But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.

It should be noted, however, that Justice Harlan also stated that:

There is a race so different from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to become citizens of the United States. Persons belonging to it are, with few exceptions, absolutely excluded from our country. I allude to the Chinese race.

So a man who used to be a slave trader who came to see the light still could not accept Chinese Americans as authentic, as Americans, as fellow travelers. That is the harsh and ugly truth of American immigration history in the courts. Immigration has always, always been racially tinged, and the fact that President Bush is willing to sign this bill makes me suspicious. Somehow I don't think he's doing us any favors here. The bill would ultimately change the racial make up of this country so drastically that I think the average Asian American doesn't realize what's at stake.

Filipino veterans' equity - on the back burner. Same with Hmong and Laos veterans' equity. No need to honor these men who fought bravely for the United States based on a promise that was broken. A promise that will remain broken for far longer since family reunification will no longer be a priority.

Yes, never forget. This is not an immigration bill like the one that welcomed my parents and my friends' parents, my aunts and uncles to this country. This is not an immigrant-friendly bill - it's a bill that is discussed as a "border security" bill. Does that scream "Make yourself at home and contribute your culture and ideas as well as your labor"?

No, it makes immigrants sound like the teeming hordes. If I had to wager a guess, this bill ain't passing. (At least I certainly hope so.)

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