Posted on October 11, 2011

Senate Measure Regrets 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act

Carolyn Lochhead, San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 2011

As it prepares to pass a bill this week to punish China for undervaluing its currency, the U.S. Senate has passed a resolution expressing regret for the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and subsequent laws that banned most Chinese immigrants from the United States and denied them citizenship.

The resolution, SR201, was sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Scott Brown, R-Mass. It passed unanimously by voice vote Thursday. {snip}

Large-scale Chinese immigration began with the California Gold Rush in 1848. After the federal government authorized and supported construction of the first transcontinental railroad during the Civil War, railroad companies recruited Chinese laborers to build the Pacific portions of the track and predominantly Irish laborers to construct the line from the East.

{snip} The resolution said the Chinese railroad workers “faced grueling hours and extremely harsh conditions in order to lay hundreds of miles of track and were paid substandard wages,” and that without their work, construction would have been “seriously impeded.”

The Senate resolution acknowledged that the laws targeting Chinese immigrants were incompatible “with the basic founding principles recognized in the Declaration of Independence that all persons are created equal,” and with “the spirit” of the Constitution. It said the United States “deeply regrets passing six decades of legislation directly targeting the Chinese people for physical and political exclusion and the wrongs committed against Chinese and American citizens of Chinese descent who suffered under these discriminatory laws.”


The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was the first ban on immigration to the United States. Until then, U.S. borders were open.