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[Congressional Record: May 23, 2002 (Extensions)]
[Page E896]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []



                          HON. DANNY K. DAVIS

                              of illinois

                    in the house of representatives

                        Wednesday, May 22, 2002

  Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, May is Asian Pacific American 
Heritage Month.
  The Congress has designated this month as a time to celebrate 
Americans of Asian and Pacific Island ancestry and their contribution 
to our culture and history. The theme for 2002 is ``Unity in Freedom.'' 
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is a relatively new holiday. 
President Jimmy Carter signed a Joint Resolution designating an annual 
celebration in 1978. President George H. W. Bush designated May to be 
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in 1990.
  However men and women of Asian and Pacific Island heritage have a 
long and rich story as an integral part of America. Asian Americans, at 
first mostly from China, were first brought to the United States in 
large numbers as workers . . . workers on the railroads, workers in the 
gold fields, workers in the agricultural sector. They were often 
ruthlessly exploited. Both the public and private sector sought to 
increase immigration in the early- and mid-1800s in a search for cheap 
labor as exemplified in the ratification of the Burlingame Treaty which 
guaranteed the right of Chinese immigration; but which did not, 
however, grant the right of naturalization.
  Our relations with the nations of Asia during this period is a 
complex one--one too often based on ``gun-boat'' diplomacy. The 
combination of racism and competition for jobs led to ugly anti-Asian 
riots including such shameful events as the 1877 Chico, California 
riots and the 1885 Rock Springs, Wyoming riots. However, these events 
resulted in only a brief pause in the rapacious need for cheap labor, 
and an increasing number of Asian Pacific people were brought or lured 
to work in Hawaiian and California agriculture--
  These new immigrants were increasingly men and women from Japan and 
the Philippines, especially after the Spanish American War.
  The level of anti-Asian racism came into full focus with the 
internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. On 
February 19, 1942, soon after the beginning of World War II, Franklin 
D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The evacuation order 
commenced the round-up of 120,000 Americans of Japanese heritage to one 
of ten internment camps in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, 
Colorado, and Arkansas. Even though many did not speak Japanese or have 
close ties to Japan, they were nonetheless regarded as wartime threats. 
Despite the fact that the U.S. was also at war with Germany and Italy, 
Americans with ancestors from those countries did not face internment. 
It took almost half a century for us to acknowledge the enormity of the 
wrong done to Japanese Americans until Congress passed a measure giving 
$20,000 to Japanese Americans who had been interned during the war in 
1988. President George H.W. Bush signed it the following year.
  Asian Pacific people continued to find their way to the United States 
and continued to become citizens despite significant legal barriers.
  From 1910 to 1940 Angel Island, off California, was used to process 
mainly Asian immigrants to the United States, earning it the nickname 
``Ellis Island of the West.'' With increasing numbers, and growing 
political awareness the Asian Pacific American community began to 
assume their rightful place in our democracy. Filipino American farm 
workers led pioneering struggles for the unionization of agricultural 
workers. Dalip Singh was elected to U.S. Congress from the agricultural 
heartland of California.
  In 1962 Hawaii sent Daniel K. Inouye to the U.S. Senate and Spark 
Matsunaga to the U.S. House. Two years later, Patsy Takemoto Mink of 
Hawaii was elected to the U.S. House, becoming the first Asian-American 
woman in Congress. Since then, hundreds of Asian Americans have been 
elected to state legislatures and municipal positions. In the last 
quarter of the 20th century America became home to millions of new 
Americans from the nations of Asia and the Pacific rim including China, 
India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Again the search for 
workers, especially skilled professionals with training in medicine, 
computer technology, and other specialties, played an important role. 
Asian Americans are an important part of our diverse American people . 
. . but they are also a diverse group themselves. According to the 2000 
census there are 11.9 million U.S. residents who reported themselves as 
Asian alone or in combination with one or more other races in Census 
2000. They make up 4.2% of our population. They consist of 2.7 million 
U.S. residents who reported they were Chinese alone or in combination 
with one or more other races or Asian groups, 2.4 million Filipino 
residents, and 1.9 million Asian Indian residents. There were 874,400 
native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander according to Census 2000. 
The median income in 2000 of Asian and Pacific Islander households was 
$55,525, the highest median income of any racial group.
  The poverty rate of Asian Pacific Islanders in the 2000 census was 
10.7%, the lowest poverty rate the Census Bureau has ever measured for 
this race group. 44% of Asians and Pacific Islanders age 25 and over 
held a bachelor's degree or higher in 2000. The corresponding rate for 
all adults 25 and over was 26%. One million Asians and Pacific 
Islanders held an advanced degree in 2000 (that is, a Master's, Ph.D., 
M.D., or J.D.), representing a ratio of 1 in 7 Asian Pacific Islanders 
25 and over.
  There were 913,000 Asian Pacific Islander-owned businesses in the 
United States in 1997. These businesses employed more than 2.2 million 
people and generated $306.9 billion in revenues. They made up 4% of the 
nation's 20.8 million nonfarm businesses and 30% of all minority-owned 
  Mr. Speaker, I could go on with statistics describing Americans of 
Asian and Pacific Island descent . . . but the point is made: Asian 
Pacific Islanders are integral to our notions of what America is, and 
what we want America to be.
  Mr. Speaker, over the course of our history we have learned to value 
our diversity. We have learned that our diversity makes us strong. 
Asian Pacific Americans are an important and irreplaceable part of our 
diversity. In every aspect of our culture, our economy, our values, our 
body politic, our creative energy Asian Pacific Americans are an 
inseparable part.
  Mr. Speaker, let us glory in our diversity. Let us all swell with 
pride at the contributions of Asian Pacific Americans, not just this 
month, but every month. Let us reach out and embrace one another, 
secure in the strength of our multi-racial, multi-ethnic society, and 
understanding the need to further perfect our unity and eliminate every 
aspect of inequality and inequity.
  And let us move forward together, keeping our eyes on the prize of 
the great American dream, uplifted by the history and contributions of 
Americans of Asian and Pacific Island descent now woven into our very 
being as a Nation.


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