Esther Leong is the Administrative Director of the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach. She shares with us a personal story of the impact of growing up in SF Chinatown amid the legacy of exclusion.
Friends & Family,
This coming May 6th will be the 135th anniversary of the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was the first time in American history, that one’s race became a basis for exclusion to the United States. Thereafter, more racist immigration restrictions were enforced on others, but none lasted as long as the Chinese Exclusion Act which spanned over 60 years.
By its repeal in 1943, generations of my family, and specifically, my paternal and maternal grandmothers had endured decades of separation between Toisan, China and America. This is also why my father was forced to be a “paper son” to come to America, and our family was later involuntarily enveloped in the so-called “Confession Program” (whereby my parents were terrorized by INS investigations that threatened to tear the family apart .. as meticulously documented in my father’s Alien file).
Chinese on two continents have experienced the results of racist scapegoating by American politics, extreme vetting (and corruption) by govt. officials, and the terror of racist immigration raids/detention/deportation on family and community. That is why THIS MAY 6th, SATURDAY, in PORTSMOUTH SQUARE in SAN FRANCISCO, we gather with communities of all colors, nationalities and religions to remember the Exclusion Act of 1882 and to see that history does not repeat itself today.
I ask you to join us at the rally, to express your individual support or that of an organization or group you are affiliated with, or to contribute time or money to this effort and its on-going activities which extend beyond the May 6th rally. No amount is too small, all names and volunteers are always welcome. I hope you will pass the information about No More Exclusion! to others as you see fit.
Remember 1882, Executive Order 9066, and other lessons learned.
Blessings – Jennie Lew
Jennie Lew is the director of the documentary film Separate Lives, Broken Dreams, which was broadcast on PBS in the 1990s.