Makomed's Weblog

Arizona’s Ruling is a Repeat of the Past

Posted on: May 11, 2010

Author’s Note: At first I wanted to turn a blind eye towards the Arizona ruling by stating to friends that battles must be picked wisely & this matter, to me, was inconsequential. Having been an illegal immigrant myself, I had it in my head that my own citizenship had been earned through long petitions & military service and therefore Arizona’s plight was dissimilar to my own. However, the Civil Rights Law class I’ve been attending here at UCSD has enabled me to have a broader view of our behavior in history. Apparently, Chinese immigrants & even U.S. born minorities were once under the same hammer of exclusion. In light of this, I don’t see how today’s modern Arizona is any different from the gold-rush days of yesteryear. This is my essay response.


“Exclusion” (photo from
Professor Grace Kim
May 5, 2010

The United States condones minority immigration when economic exigency occurs, but renounces it when resources become limited. In the cases of Chae Chan Ping v. United States, Fong Yue Ting v. United States, the federal government initially welcomed the presence of Asian workers & citizens until it suddenly felt pressured to turn on its own denizens in an attempt to preserve jobs and property interest. The Supreme Court decisions in the aforementioned cases also contributed to the racial formation of Asian Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by categorizing them for separation, effectively isolating the very culture of diversity that was one of the strengths of the nation.

In 1868 the United States attempted to befriend China by bridging its borders and inviting the Chinese to live and work in the country in the hopes of changing their luck and increasing their finances by either discovering the precious one for themselves, or providing services in support of the other miners. Unfortunately, the scarcity of the precious metal was what determined its worth. With such a limited prize, competition began to mount, much to the chagrin of white settlers. Chae Chan Ping sought to return to the US after visiting China and found that he was no longer welcomed there. He became the victim of a new order and was unable to sufficiently prove that he was a denizen of United States due to so-called insufficient evidence: His papers were outdated and his witnesses were not credible due to the fact that they were not white. It was the first instance in which the “Plenary Power Doctrine” was explicitly evoked. It expounded on Congress’s inalienable right to expel any class of aliens, “absolutely or upon certain conditions, in war or in peace.”

Fong Yue Ting’s case reinforced congressional authority over noncitizens free from judicial review. It was stated that “[t]hose [Chinese] laborers are not citizens of the United States; they are aliens. That the Government of the United States, through the action of the Legislative Department, can exclude aliens from its territory, is a proposition which we do not think open to controversy. Jurisdiction over its own territory to that extent is an incident of every independent nation.” This was revisited in “ARTICLE 6. Citizens of the United States visiting or residing in China, . . . and, reciprocally, Chinese subjects visiting or residing in the United States, shall enjoy the same privileges…in respect to travel or residence as may there be enjoyed by the citizens or subjects of the most favored nation. But nothing herein contained shall be held to confer naturalization…in the United States.”(16 Stat. 740.) And this explicit denial of naturalization has served to advance a “property interest” in whiteness due to the fact that refusal of citizenship synonymously disables one from owning property.

In more recent times, Fred Korematsu had an awakening during the attacks on Pearl Harbor when he found himself subject to classification and warrant to subjection to being ushered into a Japanese internment camp. His case reinforced the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, that was signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt. This came as a surprise to Korematsu since he was born a U.S. citizen in Oakland, California in 1919. He was even dating a Caucasian woman at the time of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Apparently, he had fallen prey to the assumption that because he had Japanese-American parents who were citizens, his ethnic ancestry would take a backseat to his place of birth. Again, Plenary Power Doctrine was evoked, stripping him of his so-called indelible rights i.e., habeas corpus. The Supreme Court’s decision had augmented whiteness for the sake of harboring a false sense of national security.

Whiteness has unwittingly become a limited and desired resource, thanks to the actions of these US Supreme court decisions. It has manifested itself by taking advantage of immutable differences characterized by Asian Americans.


Also, let it be known that we are taught that “whiteness” is not exclusive to only white people.


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