December 17 - From Exclusion to a Day of Inclusion

There were probably as many reasons for coming to America as there were people who came. It was a highly individual decision. Yet it can be said that three large forces—religious persecution, political oppression and economic hardship—provided the chief motives for the mass migration to our shores. They were responding, in their own way, to the pledge of the Declaration of Independence: the promise of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
—John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants, 1964

Everything we eat today is picked and created by undocumented immigrants, to a large extent. And every time we go to a restaurant and every time we go and move into a building, a lot of those buildings are built by undocumented immigrants' hands.
—California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Our economy is very, very dependent on the immigrant work force. They're a very disciplined, very stable, very productive work force. Our economy would collapse without them.
—California State Senator Gil Cedillo

In commendation of all immigrants for their notable accomplishments and outstanding service to our state, I am honored to introduce ACR 76. With ACR 76, December 17th serves as a time to acknowledge this history and to honor how all immigrants continue to contribute to all segments of our society.
—California State Assemblyman Mike Eng

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America was founded on the principles of liberty, equality, and justice for all and proclaimed her shores with the motto: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.."

The first Asian pioneers numbered 25,000 strong by 1852 and came from China to the gold fields of California embracing these American values. Between 1849 and the early 1880s 1/4 million Chinese had arrived in California.

By the 1900s these Chinese pioneers performed every type of menial job that was deemed unsuitable for any free man, working in the gold mines, railroads, the lumber industry, the fisheries and canneries, and as migrant farm laborers.

The Chinese in 19th century California moved mountains completing the Transcontinental Railroad, parted the waters building the vital California delta levees, and laid the foundation of California's world-class agriculture in the 1870s and fisheries beginning in 1888.

Shamefully, from 1850 through 1906 the early Chinese Californian pioneers were subjected to state-sponsored brutal discrimination, deadly violence, and racial progroms, being herded and "Driven Out" out of cities and towns throughout the American West.

Federal, state, and local laws were passed to eliminate the Chinese from California and the US culminating in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, marking the first time U.S. immigration policy singled out citizens of a particular nation for wholesale discrimination.

But, with spirit and strategy the Chinese fought for their place in America through a US court system that they were denied access, bringing 17 cases to the U.S. Supreme Court between 1881 and 1896, hundreds of appeals locally, and essentially redefining the 14th Amendment of the United States.

The Court's 1896 decision in Yick Wo v. Hopkins held that "race neutral" laws could not be selectively enforced against one disfavored group. And, in Wong Kim Ark, the Court held that all persons born in the United States are citizens by birth, thus redefining the values of freedom for all Americans.

So, the founding principles of this country -- liberty, equality, and justice for all -- comes to mind every December 17, as the anniversary repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act by the US Congress.

It is through this repeal that Chinese-Californians have come to lead the nation in API population of 1,122,187 and California being 40% of the total of Chinese Americans in the US (2000 census), being that the Chinese are the largest Asian-American ethnic group in the United States, and China ranks second (behind Mexico) as the nation from which most new immigrants to the United States now come.

It is through this repeal Chinese-Californians have come to lead this fair state into the 21st century with innovations in science, education, commerce, and technology with companies such as Yahoo, Amplify, Computer Associates, Clontech, and California is becoming a leading trade partner with China.

We must join all Californians throughout the state in writing a new chapter in American history by acknowledging December 17 as a "Day of Inclusion" and welcome those who come to California tired, poor, and yearning to breathe free and extend to all in this fair state the hope that every Californian reach out to the angels of our higher nature and recognized the sacrifices and contributions of our immigrant population. We must educate our community and our children of the impact of December 17 as the "Day of Inclusion."

Therefore, we welcome and support California State Assemblymember Mike Eng and Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 76 designating December 17th as the Day of Inclusion.