|9:11 PM EDT||
Mike Honda, D-CA 15th
Mr. HONDA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the significance of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. The push for designating an APA Heritage Month started 26 years ago by visionary APA community leaders and also was led from this House by retired Congressman Robert Horton of New York and the current Secretary of Transportation, Norman Y. Mineta.
This year's Heritage Month theme, a Salute to Liberty, is an especially timely theme as our Nation is faced with conflict and tension. We must remember that in the fight to protect our national security, we must also preserve our civil liberties and individual rights. During this month, it is also imperative that we utilize this opportunity to reflect upon and understand our past so we can successfully build for our future. This is a moment of teaching and learning. There have been many histories
of Asian Pacific Americans in this country, Mr. Speaker, their origins, their barriers, the barriers that they have overcome in the pursuit to seek the American Dream in this country.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment and sort of share with the community the history of the bill that was passed in 1992, eventually, to recognize the month of May as an official [Page: H4234]
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
In 1977, Representative Frank Horton, a Representative from New York, and Norman Y. Mineta, from California, introduced the Asian Pacific Heritage Week, House Resolution 540, in the House of Representatives, which called upon the President to proclaim the first 10 days of May as Pacific Asian Heritage Week. The joint resolution did not contain an annual designation, so in 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the joint resolution put forward by both Representatives Horton and Mineta.
Then, in 1990, Asian American leaders around the country gathered at the White House to witness the signing of a proclamation by President George Bush declaring May to be Asian Pacific Heritage Month. So we went from a week to a month. In 1992, President Bush signed legislation into law designating May of each year as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Mr. Speaker, it is apropos since this is the month of May we do take some time to recognize those who were important in designating Asian Pacific Heritage Month.
First, why is it important? As a schoolteacher, if we do not teach our history and understand the members of our community's contributions to this country, our children, be they Asian Americans or not, will be less educated and less informed and less appreciative of not only their culture but the cultures of other people.
The growth of the Asian Pacific population from 1980 to 1990 doubled from 3.7 million to approximately 7.3 million. This increase is remarkable when compared to the total increase in the U.S. population of 9.8 percent during that same period.
Then the growth continued to rise another 43 percent from 1990 to 1999. Currently, APAs comprise 4.5 percent of the U.S. population; and by 2050 APAs are expected to comprise 9 percent of the U.S. population. However, in the State of California, the APA population already comprise 11 percent of the general population and grew 34 percent in the past decade, from 2.8 to 3.8 million. This growth, although largely attributed to immigration patterns, is also indicative of more defined data collection
methods which has always been a problem in our communities. So the last census it was critical that the census taken was accurate and was as precise as possible.
Data is a cross-cutting issue. Lack of data impacts our understanding of the health problems in our communities, as well as the problems in access and quality. Adequate data collection continues to be a challenge for the APA community.
Although we are often mistaken to be a homogeneous group and sometimes considered perpetual foreigners, APAs in this country encompasses 49 ethnicities speaking over 100 languages and dialects. Aggregating such a large and diverse group makes it difficult to understand the unique problems faced by the individual ethnicities it encompasses.
So when we aggregate Asian Americans as a population, when we look at programs and policies in this country, it is critical that we disaggregate the information so that we are able to be more precise in our policies and programs that we want to target for our communities.
Let me just share a little bit of historical time line. Historically, in 1763 the very first settlement that we know of were some escaped prisoners aboard the Spanish galleons, and they were Filipinos jumping ship in New Orleans. They fled into the bayous of Louisiana, and they established a community called Saint Malo, the first APA settlement in the United States, fleeing the Spanish galleons and seeking freedom in this country.
In 1882, this country saw fit to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Exclusion Act ends most immigration from China until 1943 and denied citizenship to those already present, many of whom were drawn by the gold rush and the Central Pacific Railroad.
As a sideline, we have found out through our research that there have been many Chinese Americans who fought in the Civil War. Upon their petition to become citizens after serving in the military, they were denied citizenship because of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
In 1868, the Japanese settled in California, first in a community called Alameda in the San Francisco Bay area and secondly in El Dorado County near Sacramento. That colony was name Wahamatsu Colony.
An interesting story of the Wahamatsu Colony, the first colony in this country, was that they first came as refugees from Japan led by a gentleman who was a gunrunner in Japan, Mr. Schell. He had a choice of either facing death or being deported. So he left with his contingent of folks from Japan and established this colony. This colony did not last very long, but it is important to note that the last surviving members of the first colony in the State of California are not Japanese Americans
but families of African Americans and Chinese.
So it shows that ethnic groups in this country, when they come to this country, they may be disallowed from intermarrying with the mainstream white groups of this country, but they found ways to raise families and find their way through this country until such time that laws were passed to allow people to earn their citizenship in this country.
In 1912 at the Stockholm Olympics, swimmer Duke Kahinomoku became the first APA to win a Gold Medal. He was later credited with introducing the sport, a sport that is endearing to the gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher), the sport of surfing in the United States.
In 1913, the Alien Land Act was passed, and this was specifically in California. The Alien Land Act forced immigrants, primarily Japanese and other APAs, from owning or leasing land; and similar laws were passed in other States throughout the Nation. Subsequently it was rescinded later on in the 1950s.
In 1942, the Japanese American internment occurred.
This was following the United States' declaration of war against Japan when Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the forced relocation and detention of 120,000 Japanese Americans, as well as over 2,000 Japanese Latin Americans. And also in this country it is not well-known that over 7,000 Italian Americans were affected personally, their families, and over 30,000 German Americans were affected.
In 1943, the Japanese American battalion, the 442nd, which was comprised of some 12,000 Japanese Americans, many of them from internment camps, responded to the War Department's call for volunteers for an all-Japanese combat unit. It was not unusual at that time that we had segregated combat units. We had combat units of Indians; we had combat units of blacks and African Americans. At that time around 32,000 were inducted to form the 442 regimental combat team, and we had Members of this House
who served in the Regimental Combat 442, the past Congressman Sparky Matsunaga and the current Senator from Hawaii, Mr. Inouye.
This combat team became legendary for its success, and it is probably the most decorated military men in the United States history. Their average Purple Heart that this combat unit had inflicted upon them, they had earned almost three Purple Hearts per person, meaning they had to be injured. Each member had to be injured at least three times, so close to 9,000 Purple Hearts were granted recognizing their injuries in the effort to fight the war in Europe.
In 1946, the first Chinese American, Wing F. Ong of Arizona, becomes the first APA to be elected to State office. Asian Americans, we are still looking at firsts. Some day we hope that we will go beyond the first and become a rule rather than an exception.
In 1956, after the first congressman, an Indian American businessman Dalip Singh Saund of Westmoreland, California, became the very first Asian Pacific American elected to Congress, he, however, wanted to become a citizen and could not become a citizen prior to 1952 because there was still a law on the books that disallowed Asian to become citizens. When that law was rescinded, he was able to participate in the halls of Congress.
In 1964, the first congresswoman, Patsy Takemoto Mink is the first woman of color and the first Asian Pacific congresswoman to represent Hawaii in the halls of Congress. We know [Page: H4235]
that we lost her just recently, and it was a terrible loss to not only Asian Americans but Americans throughout this country and to all those who believe that those who have never forgotten their roots and their past come to Congress making sure that the idea that equality and
opportunities for all Americans, regardless of their background, must be met and must be respected.
In 1965, a labor activist named Philip Vera Cruz organizes a successful strike of fellow Filipino grape pickers in Coachella, California. This gentleman began the movement that leads to the formation of the United Farm Workers of America where eventually Cesar Chevaz became the head leader and recognized for his work and his philosophy of peace and nonviolent activism.
In 1968, there was an ethnic studies strike. Students of color from San Francisco State University and UC Berkley organize a Third World strike. Their efforts led to the creation of ethnic studies departments at both campuses and eventually across this country.
I have to say that because of the work of folks in ethnic studies, which was a movement that did not have much support among the scholastic circles until recently, that we found all this information that would lead to children, present and in the future, being able to understand that Asian Americans are not recent immigrants and Asian Americans have contributed to the development of this country.
Further, the most valuable player in 1969 was a Filipino American. He played for the Los Angeles Rams as a quarterback, and his name was Roman Gabriel. He was recognized as the league's Most Valuable Player.
The first governor in 1974 was a Japanese governor named George Ariyoshi; and he was elected governor of Hawaii, the first APA governor in the United States.
And in 1981, a Chinese American architecture student, Maya Lin, her design was chosen for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in a national competition. She becomes one of the most widely recognized architects in the United States, and her work can be seen here in Washington, D.C., at the Vietnam Memorial.
In 1982, a young man, Vincent Chin, who was celebrating the event of his marriage, was murdered. He was murdered in Detroit, Michigan. Two white auto workers mistook Chin for Japanese and blamed him for the auto industry's woes and the downturn in the economy. He was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat. The courts were lenient on the killers, and none of them served a day in jail. This incident became a rallying point for the national APA community. His mom went across this country seeking
justice and eventually had some justice through the civil rights law.
Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Scott).