Congressional Gold Medal Act Enacted to Pay Tribute to 20,000 Chinese-American World War II Veterans

On Dec. 20, 2018 President Trump signed into law the Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act, which had been passed unanimously on Sept. 12, 2018, by the U.S. Senate (S. 1050) and unanimously on Dec. 12, 2018, by the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2358). The bill passed the House five days before the 75th anniversary of the 1943 Magnuson Act, which repealed the regrettable Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Senator Duckworth with National C.A.C.A. Advocacy Team.

S. 1050 sponsor Senator Tammy Duckworth with the National C.A.C.A. Advocacy Team. (Photo by Esther Lee, C.A.C.A. Boston Lodge)

The Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act is bipartisan legislation that honors the Chinese-American veterans who served our country in World War II despite prevalent discrimination at the time. Over 20,000 Chinese-American veterans answered the call to serve in the United States military when the country was attacked at Pearl Harbor.

This is a wonderful holiday gift to the Chinese-American community. The president’s signature on this bill reaffirms this administration’s recognition of the contributions minorities make in protecting our nation. They put their lives on the line, pledging loyalty to our country and proving that we are all patriots. The passing and signing into law of this act honorably recognizes the Chinese-Americans who bravely served our country.

By 1941, over 100,000 Chinese-Americans had immigrated to the United States. Before the Magnuson Act, the Chinese-American community faced widespread discrimination, in part due to the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which restricted immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States. Overcoming these hardships, Chinese-Americans persevered to integrate into American society and build thriving communities. More than 20,000 brave Chinese-American men and women rose to serve the country from every state in the union, in every theater of battle, and in each branch of the armed services. Many earned citations for their heroism and honorable duty to our nation.

The congressional bills, H.R. 2358 and S. 1050, were championed through the legislative process with support from the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (C.A.C.A.) and veterans’ organizations across the country.

Rep Ed Royce with National C.A.C.A. Advocacy Team.

H.R. 2358 sponsor Representative Ed Royce with the National C.A.C.A. Advocacy Team. (Photo by Esther Lee, C.A.C.A. Boston Lodge)

“The Chinese-American community has been working very closely with political leaders from every state to ensure unanimity in the passing of this great legislative bill,” noted Ed Gor, immediate past national C.A.C.A. president. “We applaud the work of everyone involved in this initiative, from our internal efforts with the Honorable Betty Tom Chu, Honorable Sophie Wong, John Wong, and John Gee, who drafted the original bill, those who walked the Hill the past 18 months, and hundreds of C.A.C.A. members who advocated locally across the country, to House co-sponsors, the Honorable Ed Royce, Ted Lieu, and Grace Meng, and Senators Duckworth, Cochran, and Hirono. This was a Team America effort!”

“Many of the benefactors of this Act are sadly no longer with us,” notes Wilson Lee, cofounder of the Chinese American Heritage Foundation and C.A.C.A. Boston Lodge. “But as they sacrificed for us then, we now offer this tribute to their most precious contribution to our country — their lives for our freedom. With the Chinese-American WWII Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act now being signed into law, let freedom ring for all!”

Holly Ham is the executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

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