As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander History Month, we celebrate our differences as much as the very rich history that binds us together. The AAPI community has made enormous contributions to the United States. The diverse strands that make up our community helped to build and shape the U.S. through work on the railroads, farms, and cities -- from the early days to the present. Today, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are woven tightly into the fabric of this country, and have excelled in every walk of life. It is important to recognize how far AAPI’s have come, how far the United States has come, and how far we still have to journey together towards our goals.
As an AAPI, I offer that the history of the AAPI’s in America has not always been an easy one; we suffered bigotry, injustice, and discrimination as early as the mid-19th century, with violence and injustice applied through a series of highly discriminatory and prejudicial laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907, the Asiatic Barred Zone Act of 1917, the National Origins Act of 1924, and Executive Order 9066 of 1942. These laws denied AAPIs citizenship, stopped AAPI immigration, and separated families. Executive Order 9066 created the internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II. But it wasn’t until the enactment of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 -- in the wake of massive Civil Rights changes in this country -- that we began to affect changes through the political process that had before worked against us. With this act, barriers to AAPI immigration were reduced and families began to be reunited. We began our struggle for rights as Americans, not our right to be Americans. AAPI political activism, though a relatively late entry in the U.S. political landscape, is nonetheless very strong, and continually growing.
Our hopes and aspirations are the same as those of all Americans. We care greatly about our families. Because of historical inequities, AAPI families were separated, and when the egregious laws were repealed, we were faced with a huge backlog in getting our families reunited. That is why, at a time when Immigration reform is being considered, it is critical that Family Reunification be part of this comprehensive Immigration Reform. Comprehensive Immigration Reform cannot be addressed piecemeal, and it cannot be looked at only from the business and economic perspective. It must address all aspects of Immigration, including Family Reunification. We can do it! Together we can do anything!
I ask for your continued support of one another. We must move forward. We must make sure that old battles stay won, and fight new battles all the harder.