Law, History & Politics: the Chinese Exclusion Act + Korematsu v. U.S.

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We'll continue our discussion in this new series -- LAW, HISTORY AND POLITICS.


he LHP series explore the intersections of its namesake -- an in-depth study of a particular law, court decision, or a legal precedent that shaped the political forces and its historical ramifications.

The LHP series will start out with subject matters that directly relate to the U.S. For instance, we'll discuss landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions, particular Constitutional Amendments, or an influential Legislative body of work.

The advanced LHP series will explore international and comparative law from a historic perspective. These may include: Magna Carta, the Code of Justinian, the Code of Hammurabi -- to more recent selections, such as the Treaty of Versailles, the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights and the Geneva Convention.

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For this meeting, we'll read and discuss the following:

1) The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 --

Once upon a time, Congress enacted a law to prohibit an entire class of individuals from entering the U.S., based on race and ethnicity.

2) Korematsu v. U.S., 323 U.S. 214 (1944)

This infamous case upholding the constitutionality of the Japanese Internment Camp during the WWII, is universally criticized, virtually by all legal scholars, as being the most legally-misguided opinion -- yet, the ruling technically still stands, as it was never overruled.

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*** SUPPLEMENTAL READINGS (OPTIONAL):

• Chae Chan Ping v. U.S. ("Chinese Exclusion Case"), 130 U.S. 581 (1889) -- held, a Chinese laborer's denial of entry into the U.S. affirmed because under the Amendment to the Chinese Exclusion Act, the denial was based on the proper governmental interest -- as a part of the sovereign powers delegated by the Constitution -- for a "preservation of our civilization."

• U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898) -- held, the government's denial of citizenship to persons born in the U.S. is in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

• Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356 (1886) -- held, an unequal (and very selective) enforcement of the city ordinance, targeting a Chinese immigrant's operation of a laundry in a wooden building, was unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Previous LHP series:

• Plessy v. Ferguson, (April 2017) -- a reading and critical discussion at the "Separate But Equal" doctrine: https://www.meetup.com/NYC-Politics/events/237488367/

• Federalist Papers Nos. 2 and 68, and the Dred Scott Decision (Feb. 2, 2017): https://www.meetup.com/NYC-Politics/events/236391106/?eventId=236391106s