Washington Post: Donald Trump meet Wong Kim Ark, the Chinese American cook who is the father of ‘birthright citizenship’

Washington Post (by Fred Barbash):

It was the fall of 1895, and Wong Kim Ark was puzzled and alarmed as he bided his time on the steamship Coptic in San Francisco Bay which had returned him from a visit to China. His papers were in order. He had seen to that. The required statement, certification from white men that he was born in the U.S. and therefore a citizen, were in order. He had traveled to China for a visit and had little trouble being readmitted.

On this occasion, however, authorities denied him entry, returning him to the ship on which he had arrived, and from there to another ship, the Gaelic, and then to the Peking. For four months, the only certainty to Wong’s life was the tides on San Francisco Bay where he awaited word of his fate.

What he could not have known was that he was about to become a “test case” brought by the United States government, egged on by a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment, in an effort to undermine the 14th Amendment “birthright” provision which made Wong a citizen in the first place as the plain and simple language of the amendment said that, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

For the Chinese in America, this was the “exclusion era,” a radical shift for the U.S., which for the most part, since its creation as a republic, had encouraged people to come to its shores. In the beginning, as America built its railroads, mined its gold and farmed the valleys of Northern California, the Chinese were welcomed as well in America. They streamed in by the thousands.

But as the Depression of 1873 took its toll on white working men, they began to look for scapegoats. Mob violence, arson, and overt racist derision swept through California, powered by slogan “the Chinese must go.” Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, designed to put an end to the flow of Chinese into the U.S. But that was not enough for the building anti-Chinese wave.

Thousands of children had been born to Chinese in the U.S. and birthright citizenship was the next target, just as it is today for many Republicans, notably Donald Trump, in their campaign aimed at the children they call “anchor babies,” whose parents enter the U.S. illegally just to make sure their children enjoy the benefits of citizenship. The U.S. is “the only place just about that’s stupid enough to to do that, he has said, thus providing an incentive for illegal entry. Bills to do just what Trump is advocating have been around for years and have gone nowhere, and many, but not all, scholars believe such a change would need to confront the almost insurmountable task of amending the Constitution.

Why Asian Americans should care about Fred Korematsu Day 

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 Audrey Magazine: 

Never heard of Fred Korematsu before? Well today may just be the perfect day to learn about him. After all, January 30th is proclaimed Fred Korematsu Day. Unfortunately, he often flies under the radar because his story is still one that barely receives recognition in your average American history lesson. In fact, Korematsu Day is only recognized by the states of California, Hawaii and Utah.

During World War II, President Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066 which made it legal to incarcerate Japanese Americans and anyone of Japanese descent into concentration camps, and Korematsu’s family fell victim to the legal discrimination. But Korematsu defied the president’s order believing he was an American citizen, and saw the situation for what it was — an injustice.

In an effort to avoid the unjust discrimination, Korematsu got minor surgery to alter his eyes, changed his name to Clyde Sarah and even claimed his ancestry as Hawaiian and Spanish. However, his efforts were foiled when he was arrested and convicted in federal court for violating the government orders.

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According to the Supreme Court decision regarding my case, being an American citizen was not enough. They say you have to look like one, otherwise they say you can’t tell a difference between a loyal and a disloyal American,” said Korematsu.

It wasn’t until years later, in 1983, when Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of the U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Francisco formally overturned the conviction of Korematsu that his innocence was acknowledged. It was a pivotal moment in U.S. civil rights history, especially because Korematsu would never forget these injustices. In fact, he decided to make sure America wouldn’t forget these injustices either.

Flash forward to 1998 and you’ll find President Bill Clinton honoring Korematsu with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his persistence to fight against the federal courts for governmental misconduct, as well as his work to pass a bill that would grant an official apology from the U.S. government and compensation of $20,000 for each surviving, formerly incarcerated Japanese American:

Why is his story important? Because it serves as a reminder for Asian Americans that we are still very much human and we deserve our human rights like any other American.

If you feel that Fred Korematsu’s history deserves to be highlighted, 18 Million Rising is holding an online petition to have Korematsu featured as a Google Doodle. They’re 200 letters away from reaching their goal!

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For more about Fred Korematsu click here, and you can send in your letter to Google here.