May 6, 1882: Race and immigration policy collide

May 6, 2014

Today is the anniversary* of our nation’s first** law generally governing immigration.

It’s a history we should work to change, to put behind us, to move away from.

Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese immigrants from the United States for 10 years.

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, page 1 - National Archives

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, page 1 – National Archives

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, page 2 - National Archives

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, page 2 – National Archives

We cannot paint over this part of history.  The Chinese Exclusion Act was racist in intent, and racist in content.

What should we learn from it?  Among justifications for the law were claims that immigrants from China were taking jobs from citizens, especially in California.  Chinese workers imported to build the Transcontinental Railroads sought new employment once the routes were built.

Reality probably differed a lot.  Chinese entrepreneurs, with money they had earned working on the railroads, established news businesses.  Yes, a lot of Chinese were getting jobs.  They were mostly new jobs, in new businesses, boosting the economy and creating more jobs.  That came to an almost-screeching halt.

Did America learn?  This law was renewed, then made permanent — not really fixed until World War II, when China was an ally in the War in the Pacific, against Japan.  Even then, it wasn’t a good fix.

The law was repealed by the Magnuson Act in 1943 during World War II, when China was an ally in the war against imperial Japan. Nevertheless, the 1943 act still allowed only 105 Chinese immigrants per year, reflecting persisting prejudice against the Chinese in American immigration policy. It was not until the Immigration Act of 1965, which eliminated previous national-origins policy, that large-scale Chinese immigration to the United States was allowed to begin again after a hiatus of over 80 years.

Can we learn from this history, for immigration reform now? Santayana’s Ghost wonders.

How much is resistance to immigration reform based on racism, the sort of racism that kills the U.S. economy?

The Chinese Exclusion Act proved to be an embarrassment for Uncle Sam:  “A Skeleton in His Closet,” by L.M. Glackens, published in Puck magazine on Jan. 3, 1912. Uncle Sam holding paper “Protest against Russian exclusion of Jewish Americans” and looking in shock at Chinese skeleton labeled “American exclusion of Chinese” in closet. Image from NorthwestAsianWeekly.com

The Chinese Exclusion Act proved to be an embarrassment for Uncle Sam: “A Skeleton in His Closet,” by L.M. Glackens, published in Puck magazine on Jan. 3, 1912. Uncle Sam holding paper “Protest against Russian exclusion of Jewish Americans” and looking in shock at Chinese skeleton labeled “American exclusion of Chinese” in closet. Image from NorthwestAsianWeekly.com

____________

*    I note the image says it was approved by President Chester Alan Arthur (who had succeeded to office after President James Garfield was assassinated a year earlier).  The New York Times calls May 6 the anniversary of Congress’s passing the law; if Arthur signed in on May 6, it was probably passed a few days earlier.  May 6 would be the anniversary of its signing into law.

**  The Chinese Exclusion Act was preceded by the Page Act of 1875, which prohibited immigration of “undesirable” people.  Who was undesirable?  “The law classified as undesirable any individual from China who was coming to America to be a contract laborer, any Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own country.”  It was not applicable to many immigrants.  The Page Act was named after its sponsor, Rep. Horace F. Page of California.

This is based on, and borrows from, an earlier post at MFB.

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Obama already negotiated; GOP taking hallucinogens? (Again?)

October 8, 2013

Oh, Speaker Boehner forgot to mention that.

 

http://bit.ly/GE9nzF 

pic.twitter.com/8N4bG4GFHY


Shutup and read: Text of S. 649, Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013

April 11, 2013

Sen. Ted Cruz claims no one has read the text of S. 649, the Safe Communities and Safe Schools Act of 2013.

English: Ted Cruz at the Republican Leadership...

Reading-impaired U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Wikipedia image

Contact: (202) 224-5922 / press@cruz.senate.gov
Thursday, April 11, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) released the following statement regarding the pending vote on the motion to proceed to new gun control legislation:

This morning the Senate will vote on the motion to proceed to the firearms bill (S.649). It is expected that the Toomey-Manchin provision announced yesterday will replace the current language regarding background checks. Yet, as of this morning, not a single senator has been provided the legislative language of this provision. Because the background-check measure is the centerpiece of this legislation it is critical that we know what is in the bill before we vote on it. The American people expect more and deserve better.

Unfortunately, the effort to push through legislation that no one had read highlights one of the primary reasons we announced our intention to force a 60 vote threshold. We believe the abuse of the process is how the rights of Americans are systematically eroded and we will continue to do everything in our power to prevent it.

He’s an idiot, I know.

Amendments to the original text are pending — but here is the text of the proposed law as introduced in the U.S. Senate on March 22; amendments will be available at several places as they are proposed or approved, including the Library of Congress’s Thomas legislative tracking site.

Sen. Toomey published a quick summary of the bill as amended — this is what Cruz really fears:  Legislation that might make public schools safer (never forget Cruz opposes public education):

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, D-Pennsylvania

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, D-Pennsylvania, in a committee hearing room; photo released by Toomey’s office

Bottom Line: The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act would require states and the federal government to send all necessary records on criminals and the violently mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The bill extends the existing background check system to gun shows and online sales.

The bill explicitly bans the federal government from creating a national firearms registry, and imposes serious criminal penalties (a felony with up to 15 years in prison) on any person who misuses or illegally retains firearms records.

TITLE ONE: GETTING ALL THE NAMES OF PROHIBITED PURCHASERS INTO THE BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEM

Summary of Title I: This section improves background checks for firearms by strengthening the instant check system.

• Encourage states to provide all their available records to NICS by restricting federal funds to states who do not comply.

• Allow dealers to voluntarily use the NICS database to run background checks on their prospective employees

• Clarifies that submissions of mental health records into the NICS system are not prohibited by federal privacy laws (HIPAA).

• Provides a legal process for a veteran to contest his/her placement in NICS when there is no basis for barring the right to own a firearm.

TITLE TWO: REQUIRING BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR FIREARM SALES

Summary of Title II: This section of the bill requires background checks for sales at gun shows and online while securing certain aspects of 2nd Amendment rights for law abiding citizens.

• Closes the gun show and other loopholes while exempting temporary transfers and transfers between family members.

• Fixes interstate travel laws for sportsmen who transport their firearms across state lines in a responsible manner. The term “transport” includes staying in temporary lodging overnight, stopping for food, buying fuel, vehicle maintenance, and medical treatment.

• Protects sellers from lawsuits if the weapon cleared through the expanded background checks and is subsequently used in a crime. This is the same treatment gun dealers receive now.

• Allows dealers to complete transactions at gun shows that take place in a state for which they are not a resident.

• Ensures that sales at gun shows are not prevented by delayed approvals from NICS.

• Requires the FBI to give priority to finalizing background checks at gun shows over checks at store front dealerships.

• Authorizes use of a state concealed carry permit instead of a background check when purchasing a firearm from a dealer.

• Permits interstate handgun sales from dealers.

• Allows active military to buy firearms in their home states.

• Family transfers and some private sales (friends, neighbors, other individuals) are exempt from background checks

• Adds a 15 year penalty for improper use or storage of records.

TITLE THREE: NATIONAL COMMISSION ON MASS VIOLENCE

Summary of Title III: : This section of the bill creates a commission to study the causes of mass violence in the United States, looking at all aspects of the problem, including guns, school safety, mental health, and violent media or video games.

The Commission would consist of six experts appointed by the Senate Majority Leader and six experts appointed by the Speaker of the House. They would be required to submit an interim report in three months and a completed report in six months.

WHAT THE BILL WILL NOT DO:

The bill will not take away anyone’s guns.

The bill will not ban any type of firearm.

The bill will not ban or restrict the use of any kind of bullet or any size clip or magazine.

The bill will not create a national registry; in fact, it specifically makes it illegal to establish any such registry.

The bill will not, in any way at all, infringe upon the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

Sen. Cruz, you have money in your office budget for training for you and your staff in tracking legislation — I’ll be pleased to come show you how to track down such language.

Below the fold, the current text of the bill (as of 4:26 p.m., April 11, 2013).

Update:  Below the fold, the text of the bill as proposed to be amended, published by Sen. Toomey late yesterday; then, below that, the original bill as introduced by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada — compare them if you like.

Read the rest of this entry »


Powerful argument for limiting bullets in a clip: Colorado Sen. Mike Johnston pleads to give victims a chance to escape

March 17, 2013

Here’s one of my nominees for the next editions of Great Speeches of the 21st Century, and Great Speeches in American History.  Sen. Mike Johnston, on March 11, in the Colorado State Senate, spoke against coward, “hollow men,” who commit mass shootings, and how to protect from them:

Notes from YouTube posting:

Published on Mar 12, 2013

March 11, 2013: Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver) describes how gun safety legislation, particularly HB 13-1224, can make a difference.

What do you think?

Senator Michael Johnston

Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston – Wikipedia Photo

‘Eleven kids saved in eleven seconds’ seems like a powerful argument, to me.

And this:  “And so the bad news is that at that moment will be outgunned.  The good news is that in America that never means we will be outfought.”

And this:  “The task of taking lives, and the task of saving lives, are fundamentally different endeavors, and they require different tools.”

At about 6:04 into this, listen to Sen. Johnston talk about the “cost of living and loving is that it takes up so much space in our lives.”

Wow.

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School House Rock update: Reforms on “I’m Only A Bill,” the story of making laws

October 12, 2012

Remember the old School House Rock?  Disney finally put all of the old episodes out on DVD and Blu-Ray.  Short songs with animation explaining grammar (“Conjunction Junction”), or math, or history, or economics.

Schoolhouse Rock!

Schoolhouse Rock! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most popular was a later production that explained how a bill becomes law in the U.S. Congress, “I’m Just A Bill.”  You may remember how it was parodied by The Simpsons, too, and others.

It’s been updated by Fiore, now including the influence of the “American Legislative Exchange Council,” or ALEC, a Koch-brothers funded frat for conservative state legislators:

Maybe not suitable for elementary school classrooms; probably too violent for high schools, too.

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Sausage makers? Or U.S. Congress? Do you want to see how they do it?

September 15, 2011

How does a bill become law?

Charts in government and civics texts always amuse me for what they leave out — mostly the political machinations.  Anyone who worked or works in the halls of Congress knows the process is never so clean as Bismarck pretended with his old, misattributed bon mot (actually John Godfrey Saxe, not Bismarck) (and would Bismarck be chagrined at my using a French phrase to describe his words?).

At In Custodia Legis, the blog of the law librarians at the Library of Congress, I stumbled across this post featuring a photograph of a chart hanging in a committee room on the House side.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a copy of that available to teachers?

Andrew Weber wrote the post.

Sometimes the legislative process is a little more confusing than I’m Just a Bill.  As Margaret mentioned in The Curious History of the 2011 Debt Ceiling Legislation earlier this week, sometimes the legislative process takes interesting turns.  Christine also blogged about the unique situation of vehicle bills.  The poster below details the various status steps legislation can take, including Introductory, Committee, Discharge, Calendar, Floor, Conference, and Presidential Steps.

For tips on THOMAS that can relate to the legislative process, you can subscribe to the RSS feed or via email alert.  There is also a glossary in THOMAS to help.

Is the poster available?  I asked, and got this response from Mr. Weber:

This is what it says at the bottom right of the poster:

Committee on House Administration
Wayne L. Hays, Chairman
Prepared by House Information Systems Staff
Frank B. Ryan, Director

Also, on the bottom left it has a date:

Current as of November 1974

Wayne Hayes, the meanest man in the House according to Bud Shuster?  November 1974?  This was pre-scandal Hayes (Democrat of Ohio), just barely post-Nixon Washington. [

If you can find a link to this chart that makes the wording and details legible, or if you happen to find it and can photograph it so we can read it, will you let us know here?


May 7: Anniversary of the 27th Amendment to the Constitution

May 8, 2011

Oops.  I forgot this anniversary yesterday.

September 25, 1789, Congress had approved and enrolled the proposals, and sent twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution to the states for ratification.  Ten of the twelve amendments were approved, rather quickly, and by 1791 the were attached to the Constitution.  These ten we now call the Bill of Rights.

James Madison before he was president

James Madison proposed the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, and the 27th Amendment; the 203 years it took to ratify the 27th Amendment is the longest legislative process in the history of the U.S., and probably the world.

The two proposals that failed to earn the required approval of three-fourths of the 13 states fell into a special limbo for Constitutional amendments that became clear only in the late 1970s when Congress discussed how long to wait for states to approve the Equal Rights Amendment (this is a much-simplified explanation, I know).  Congress put deadlines on the ratification process in the late 20th century, but the first twelve proposals had no deadlines, nor did any other proposal before the Equal Rights Amendment proposal.  In the 1980s, Congress passed a law that said any amendments floating around, unapproved, would be considered dead after a date certain.  There were six amendments in that category.

Before that date certain passed, more states took a look at one of James Madison’s 1789 proposals.  They liked it, and they ratified it — 34 states total.

That amendment became the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, on May 7, 1992, 203 years after it was proposed:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

This is the longest legislative procedure in U.S. history, perhaps the longest ever — it lasted much longer than many nations.  By that ratification in 1992, James Madison became the person who proposed both the first, and last amendments to the Constitution.

Madison’s reaching out from the grave 156 years after his death — he died on June 28, 1836 — is one of the greatest legislative coups in history, too.


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