[Congressional Record: June 21, 2001 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
THE GROWING WEB OF SUSPICION OF ASIAN AMERICANS
Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I would like to take this opportunity
to indicate my deep concern about what I perceive to be increasing bias
in the United States toward Asian Americans and Chinese Americans in
In recent years, we have seen those on the far right and the far left
of the political spectrum raise allegations without proof, distort
facts, and make it impossible to refute insinuations. Thus, a web of
suspicion is woven about the loyalties of Asian Americans to the United
This has created an atmosphere of anti-Asian American and anti-
Chinese American sentiment: a House Select Committee report on National
Security (although widely debunked as without foundation); the botched
Wen Ho Lee investigation; the recent incident with Representative David
Wu; the attacks against U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao; hate
crimes against Asian Americans; and the attacks against former
California State Treasurer Matt Fong.
These examples--and others--have contributed to a troubling and
negative stereotyping of Asian-Americans.
Evidence of this comes from a recent Yankelovich survey which
asserts: 68 percent of Americans now have a somewhat negative or very
negative attitude toward Chinese Americans; one in three now believe
that Chinese Americans are more loyal to China than to the United
States; nearly half of all Americans--or 46 percent--now believe that
Chinese-Americans passing secrets to China is a problem; and 34 percent
believe that Chinese Americans now ``have too much influence'' in the
U.S. high technology sector.
Tragically, the unfounded suspicions about the loyalties of Asian
Americans has itself created a sense of unease among the Asian American
According to Asian American focus groups conducted for the Committee
of 100 during January 2001, Asian Americans believe that too many
Americans see them as foreigners or as ``permanent aliens.''
Increasingly, Chinese-Americans with contacts, family, friendships or
business connections in China are labeled disloyal to the United States
simply because of their ethnic background and heritage.
The sentiment seems to be that you can't be both Chinese-American and
a loyal American as well.
Now that is not what America is all about.
Sadly, our Nation has a long history of discrimination against
Americans of Asian and Pacific Island ancestry. Without a doubt, Asian
Americans have suffered from unfounded and demagogic accusations of
Americans of Asian and Pacific Island descent have been subjected to
discriminatory laws that have prevented their right to become, and be
seen as, Americans:
The Chinese Exclusionary Act of 1882 barred the immigration of
In 1907, the ``Gentleman's Agreement'' between the United States and
Japan limited Japanese immigration to the United States.
A 1913 California law erected barriers to prevent Asian Americans
from becoming land-owners.
The Immigration Act of 1917 prohibited immigration from nearly the
entire Asia-Pacific region.
The National Origins Act of 1924 banned immigration of persons
ineligible for citizenship.
Asian Americans were not able to become citizens of the United States
for over 160 years and the Supreme Court consistently upheld laws
prohibiting citizenship for Asians and Pacific Islanders with the last
of these laws not repealed until 1952.
The Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 limited the number of Filipino
immigrants to 50 per year.
During World War II, we witnessed one the worst acts of
discrimination against any group of Americans, the internment of
120,000 patriotic and loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry.
Despite the fact that their family members were being denied their
basic rights as Americans, many young Japanese Americans volunteered to
fight for their country and they did so with bravery, honor, and valor.
The record of the U.S. Army's 100th Battalion and 442nd Infantry
Combat Group speaks for itself and is without equal: 18,000 individual
decorations awarded including 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560
Silver Stars, and 9,480 Purple Hearts.
The record of the 442nd Combat Group made up of Japanese American
soldiers, including our esteemed colleague Senator Daniel Inouye is
unusual: They were the most decorated unit of its size in the Army
during World War II, yet only one member until last year received the
Medal of Honor when Senator Inouye finally received his long overdue
Throughout U.S. history Asian Americans have been subjected to
discriminatory actions, including the prohibition of individuals from
owning property, voting, testifying in court or attending school with
other people in the United States.
It is long past time to turn the page on this chapter of our Nation's
And I am appalled that in recent years some have resorted to negative
stereotypes to question the integrity of an entire community.
Tragically, this rising tide in discrimination has contributed to a
growing number of crimes hate crimes against Asian Americans.
According to the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium,
there were 486 reported incidents of violence against Asian Americans
in the latest figures available for 1999, an increase from the 429
incidents in 1998.
This upward trend is even more troubling because it is contrary to
the finding reported by the Department of Justice's 1999 crime
victimization report that violent crime rates had fallen by 10 percent
during this same period.
Who can forget the harrowing photos in August of 1999 of pre-school
children holding hands while fleeing the North Valley Jewish Community
center when a white supremacist walked into their school and opened
Later that day, the perpetrator shot and killed Joseph Ileto, a
Filipino-American postal worker. Ileto was a kind hearted and unselfish
man who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and slain
because of his skin color.
In May 1999, a Japanese American store owner was shot in Chicago,
Illinois by a gunmen seeking out ethnic targets.
In July 1999, Benjamin Smith, a 21-year-old college student, went on
a three day shooting rampage in Illinois and Indiana, killing one
Korean American, one African American, and injuring nine others--Jews,
Asian Americans, and African Americans.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hate
crimes against Asian Americans.
And make no mistake about it, these attacks are in part fueled by the
anti-Asian sentiment that lingers in our society today.
Even with the strides we have made in combating hate crimes thus far,
Asian American groups report that these crimes are still frequently
under-reported and therefore the ``real'' numbers of these incidents is
According to the Asian Law Caucus's Interim Executive Director Frank
The invisibility of Asian Pacific Americans has real
detrimental effects. If law enforcement does not perceive
that we are susceptible to hate crimes, then they are more
likely to overlook the red flags at a crime scene. We have
seen this firsthand. The result is that perpetrators are not
prosecuted, victims do not receive appropriate assistance and
the under reporting continues.
The rising tide of anti-Asian American attitudes that can lead to
these sorts of tragic incidents are all too often aided and abetted by
those in government and the media who ought to know and act better.
Many Chinese-Americans, for example, feel that the Report of the
House Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/
Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China promoted an
atmosphere of suspicion about the loyalty of Chinese Americans to their
The House Committee report asserted that:
Threats to national security can come from PRC scientists,
students, business people, or bureaucrats, in addition to
professional civilian and military intelligence operations.
The PRC also tries to identify ethnic Chinese in the United
States who have access to sensitive information, and
sometimes is able to enlist their cooperation in illegal
technology or information transfers.
It is estimated that at any given time there are over
100,000 PRC nationals who are either attending U.S.
universities or have remained in the United States after
graduating from a U.S. university. These PRC nationals
provide a ready target for PRC intelligence officers and
PRC Government controlled organizations, both while they
are in the United States and when they return to the PRC.
In light of the number of interactions taking place between
PRC and U.S. citizens and organizations over the last decade
as trade and other forms of cooperation have bloomed, the
opportunities for the PRC to attempt to acquire information
and technology, including sensitive national security
secrets, are immense.
Although it is true that the Chinese Intelligence sources utilize
these techniques, many Chinese-Americans feel that these sorts of
broad-brush allegations create an atmosphere where all Asian Americans
fall under a cloud of suspicion.
The report seems to suggest, for example, that because the PRC may
try to recruit some ethnically Chinese scientists in the U.S., all
ethnic Chinese are under suspicion.
A review of the Report by Stanford University's Center for
International Security and Cooperation concluded that the Report was
inflammatory, inaccurate, and damaging to U.S.-China Relations.
Its principal editor, Dr. Michael May, argued that the Report alleged
that ``essentially all Chinese visitors to the United States are
potential spies. This has cast a cloud of suspicion over both foreign
and Asian-born U.S. staff members of U.S. companies.''
Many Chinese and Asian American groups have written to me to express
their concerns about the impact the insinuations and unfounded
allegations of the Report have had on Chinese and Asian Americans. In a
May 21st letter to the Editor and Chief of the Los Angeles Times, John
Fugh, a retired Chinese-American Major General with 33 years of service
in the U.S. Army and its former Judge Advocate General, wrote:
The impact of this inflammatory report has created an
environment in which many Chinese and Asian Americans have
had their loyalty questioned based on their ethnicity,
especially in the defense sector.
The Asian Law Alliance of San Jose noted that the allegations of the
Report ``led to a broad-based hysteria that detrimentally impacted
Asian American scientists working to support U.S. research and
The Organization of Chinese Americans argued that the ``report and
the false impression it gave the American public had serious
repercussions on the careers of Chinese Americans at some government
agencies and in some instances, private industry.''
Now I would like to speak about some people who may well have been
targeted because they are Asian Americans.
Dr. Wen Ho Lee, an American citizen and nuclear scientist, formerly
employed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was arrested in 1999 on
59 charges ranging from violating the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to
mishandling classified data and held in solitary confinement for nine
months before all charges were dropped except for one--downloading
classified data onto his personal computer. I have been told that
others at the lab also downloaded information but were not charged.
Media reports and government information portrayed him as a Chinese
After reviewing the facts of the case, I am convinced that whatever
else may have been involved the case also had serious undertones of
racial stereotyping that need to be examined closely.
This is a man who had been held under the most extraordinary security
conditions. Dr. Lee, a sixty-year old scientist at the time, was
prohibited from outside contact, except for his immediate family, and
shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles on the occasions in which he
was allowed to leave his cell.
In an impassioned letter about the Wen Ho Lee case, one of my
As a Chinese American . . . I ask no more than what is due
to every citizen of this country, namely, to be treated with
respect and dignity. I resent those who would question the
loyalty of Chinese Americans any time a particular Chinese
American is suspected of an egregious act. In their haste to
decry the alleged espionage by an individual, not only are
these public officials and said media guilty of a rush to
judgment but of tarring with a broad brush other American
citizens who are guilty of nothing else other than having the
same ethnicity of the suspect.
Instances like the Wen Ho Lee case engender a sense of disunity and
division within the community, which undermines the basic tenets on
which this nation was founded.
In another instance of how poisoned this atmosphere has become,
Oregon U.S. Representative David Wu was recently nearly denied entry
into the Department of Energy building in Washington, DC because guards
questioned whether he was an American citizen.
After Representative Wu and an aide arrived, a guard refused to
recognize his Congressional identification and asked three times
whether the two were U.S. citizens.
Eventually, the two were allowed entry by a supervisor but this
incident indicates the web of suspicion surrounding all Asian
Americans, and even those that are elected to Congress.
Following the incident, Representative Wu wrote U.S. Energy Secretary
I am disturbed that yesterday's incident is the tip of an
iceberg, an indicator of a much larger problem at DOE which
maybe damaging our national security.
Representative Wu has asked Secretary Abraham to review employment
practices and operating procedures to prevent future discrimination
against employees of Asian descent. I join with Representative Wu in
this important request.
Lastly, in recent months, a distinguished public servant currently
the Secretary of Labor, has been harshly
and unfairly attacked and her loyalty questioned because, as a Chinese-
American, she has knowledge of China, has met with Chinese business
people, citizens, and leaders.
This is yet another case in which ethnic background appears to be
sufficient grounds to question someone's patriotism, someone's business
activities, and in this case, even the conduct of Elaine Chao's husband
as a U.S. Senator.
Another troubling incident involves the case of Matt Fong, a former
Treasurer of the State of California and a former Lieutenant colonel in
the U.S. Air Force, who has been nominated as Under Secretary of the
Army and has had his loyalty to our nation questioned.
As it transpires, Mr. Fong unknowingly accepted some funds which he
should not have in order to retire debt from his 1994 campaign for
California treasurer from Ted Sioeng, an Indonesian businessman.
But when Mr. Fong discovered that some of these funds came from
Sioeng's personal account, he immediately returned the money. There
were legitimate questions raised about the Sioeng donation but Matt
Fong did the right thing when he found out: He returned the money.
I am sad to say that questionable campaign contributions of this sort
occur more often than they should, from people of all ethnicities and
backgrounds. That is one of the reasons why campaign finance reform is
So why in this case are there some who still raise questions about
Mr. Fong's loyalty, suggesting that because of this contribution, which
some believe may have originated with the Chinese government, Mr. Fong
may represent a security risk?
There is no evidence that the funds to Mr. Fong originated with the
Chinese government, or that the contribution represents an effort by
the Chinese government to ``buy'' Mr. Fong. But because of Mr. Fong's
ethnicity, just leveling the allegation creates an environment of
suspicion which by its nature is difficult to refute.
All is insinuation, and I am loath to say that it appears that it can
only be for one reason why these questions have been raised: Mr. Fong's
As Karen Narasaki, President and Executive Director of the National
Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium put it:
Fong's mother served as California Secretary of State for
many years and Fong himself has served his country, both in
the Air Force and as California State Treasurer. To question
his loyalty to the U.S. is the worst sort of racial
I am disappointed that there are many who appear to believe that it
is still acceptable to attack Asian Americans. This is completely
unacceptable in America.
All Americans should be highly offended by the negative stereotypes
and media coverage of Asian-Americans who have made profound
contributions to our nation.
How can we question the loyalty of any American because of his or her
race or ethnic background? To put it simply, this is un-American and
must be stopped.
We all need to work together to raise awareness about the positive
contributions all Asian Americans have made to every aspect of life
here in the United States, and of the sacrifices they have made in
defense of this country.
We must redouble our efforts to eliminate racial stereotypes that
strike at the heart of American values and shame us all.
Share this page
Bookmark this page
The leading immigration law publisher - over 50000 pages of free information!
© Copyright 1995- American Immigration LLC, ILW.COM