Last month we received an email from Jordan Yee of Fremont telling us about a resolution passed by the House of Representatives. It hadn't gotten much media notice.
The House had unanimously passed HR683, which expressed regret by the Congress for a series of anti-Chinese Exclusion laws that were passed starting in the late 1870s and were not repealed until 1943.
Yee wrote that those laws impacted almost every Chinese family in the United States, including his.
Like every other ethnic group in the world, the Chinese came to California in droves during the California Gold Rush. By 1860 there were more Chinese immigrants in the state than any other ethnic group.
At first they were tolerated in the gold mining camps, but in a few years they were chased out and migrated to cities like San Francisco, getting into the laundry or other service-oriented businesses. Then when the railroad building era started, Chinese labor was welcomed.
The Chinese immigrants were young, single men and most of them intended to go back home after striking it rich. But very few ever struck it rich.
In 1875 the Page Act was passed by Congress. It targeted what were labeled as "undesirables" from Asia. Among those it was supposed to keep out were prostitutes; however, by the way it was enforced, it effectively stopped all Chinese women from entering the United States to join their husbands.
When there was a downturn in the economy after
It wasn't until World War II, when China was an ally of the United States, that these laws were repealed. Yet there were still restrictions. Instead of no Chinese immigrants, the Magnuson Act of 1943 allowed 105 Chinese to immigrate each year. But it did allow Chinese already in the country to become naturalized citizens. The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act finally leveled the playing field for all immigrants.
Yee's great-grandfather and grandfather were the first of his family to come to the United States. They operated a saloon in San Francisco.
"As our family history tells it, Great-Grandfather Yee and Grandfather Yee passed away a few years after the great earthquake of 1906 that had forced them to flee across the bay to Oakland. ... The harsh conditions of being displaced persons led to their early deaths," says Yee.
In 1930 Yee's own father, Bok Guey Yee, arrived in Seattle. He was 18 years old and had left his wife behind in southern China. He went to North Dakota, where his extended family had located.
Jordan Yee speculates that those Yees went to North Dakota because of another gold rush that happened in the Black Hills in 1884.
It took his father 17 years, a stint in the U.S. Army, and the passage of the Chinese War Brides Act in 1946 before his wife could join him in 1947.
Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at email@example.com.