Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009


Most of the original perpetrators and victims are long dead, but California's apology last year to thousands of Chinese immigrants was hailed as a landmark all the same. A measure passed by the California Assembly in July formally expressed regret for a series of discriminatory laws passed in the state beginning during the 19th century gold rush. Chinese immigrants flocking to California for the dangerous work of building the transcontinental railroad, gold mines and other infrastructure were greeted with legal bans on such fundamental rights as owning property, voting or marrying white people. The Chinese Exclusion Act, a federal law passed in 1882, singled out the laborers for special immigration restrictions, dashing many newcomers' hopes of reuniting with their wives. That measure and several others were not repealed until the 1940s. California's apology does not include financial reparations or other compensation, but supporters say money was never the point. Dale Ching, 88, was detained by immigration authorities for 3½ months when he arrived in northern California as a teenager in 1937. As he told TIME in July 2009, "Finally someone has said sorry."