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.
My father, Moon Tung Wong, came to the U.S. by himself in 1927. He was 15 years old. He had to assume the identity of another man’s son to circumvent the racist Chinese Exclusion Act. After a few months in San Francisco, he was arrested and sent to Angel Island for two months prior to being deported to China. But that could not and would not stop him. His family was poor and they needed him and his brothers to go abroad, earn a living, and send money back home. So his parents bought him another false paper and returned to the U.S. two years later.
There were thousands of men like my father – hard working, devoted, and ILLEGAL. So I will walk up Washington St. on May 6 just as thousands of Chinese workers did decades ago, up from the docks and onto Portsmouth Square. I will join the Rally for Inclusion to honor him and my mother who made our lives possible.
I know what it is to live in fear and with anxiety. My parents told us that we must obey all laws and never get into trouble or else we would be deported. Today, millions of hardworking families live with those same fears because they are unauthorized immigrants even though they pay taxes, obey laws, and contribute to their communities. How can we call ourselves a compassionate nation when our government turns its back on 11 million unauthorized people?
I hope that the May 6 rally is just a beginning as we build a movement to resist harsh immigration policies. Chinese exclusion was wrong 135 years ago and it’s wrong today. We will march, we will rally, we will persist because No Ban, No Wall, Sanctuary for All are beliefs that reflect the highest values of our democracy. Join us!
Peace, Eddie Wong
Eddie Wong is the former Executive Director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation and the former Executive Director of NAATA/Center for Asian American Media.