Stay awake, be vigilant
Assemblyman Phil Ting
Immigrant communities are afraid. They’re afraid to visit their families outside
the country because they may be turned away when coming back. They’re
afraid to report crimes for fear of deportation. They’re afraid of being separated
from their children.
This environment of fear is pervasive and omnipresent for immigrant and Muslim
communities due to President Donald Trump’s executive orders promoting racial and
religious discrimination. Today’s political climate isn’t unprecedented and Asian
Americans see echoes of the past in Trump’s executive orders.
During World War II, Japanese- Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and
sent to internment camps. They lost their homes, businesses and livelihoods because of
the assumption that they would somehow be disloyal to the United States.
On May 6, 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed by President Chester A. Arthur. It
was the country’s first law prohibiting immigration solely on the basis of ethnicity. The
law, made permanent in 1904, prevented Chinese laborers from entering the country,
despite the many years that the laborers toiled on the transcontinental railroad.
It denied a path to citizenship for Chinese people for more than 60 years.
Since then, the Asian-American community has made great strides in representation
and visibility. In San Francisco, Asian-American representation is particularly
strong – our mayor, four supervisors, public defender, assessor-recorder and
both Assemblymembers are Asian- American.
It’s important that we work to keep up this progress because it’s never
been clearer that the mistakes of the past can occur again.
While the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943 and Japanese internment
has long since ended, this stain on our nation’s history serves as a painful reminder
about the very real harmful effects of discrimination based on an individual’s ethnicity,
race or religious beliefs.
Unfortunately, the current federal administration under Trump is repeating the same
mistakes of the past. The tragic reality of today is that we have a president who does not
understand our nation’s history, and pursues senseless executive orders that
The Chinese Exclusion Act is a painful part of Chinese-American history
in this country that we cannot forget. I introduced Assembly Joint Resolution 14
with Assemblymember David Chiu so we can mark the 135th anniversary of the
exclusion act, call on Trump to repeal his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim executive
orders, and push every person to stay awake and act when injustices of the past
are recycled and repeated.
The text of the Chinese Exclusion Act states: “The coming of Chinese laborers to this
country endangers the good order of certain localities,” which served to criminalize
Chinese people who wanted to come to the United States to work.
This parallels Trump’s executive orders, which operate on the assumption that
Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans are rapists to be walled off, and people who
come to our country for a better life are dehumanized with the label “illegal.”
We cannot let this stand. We are better than this.
If we’ve learned anything from these last few months, it’s that our progress to
become a more perfect union is fragile. We must be vigilant about keeping the
progress we have made, and stopping rollbacks of justice and equality. We must stay
informed and stay awake to resist the wrongs of those who seek to divide this country.
Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) represents the 19th Assembly District, which
includes the west side of San Francisco.