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UC Berkeley Press Release

Professor warns Asians of proposed immigration reform

– While Latinos have protested en masse against proposed immigration reforms, Asian Americans have been less visible in the groundswell against bids to criminalize undocumented workers and those who hire them.

Ronald Takaki, a professor emeritus of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and a descendant of Japanese plantation workers in Hawaii, wants to change that. He plans to take a public stand against what he calls "draconian" immigration reform measures on Thursday, April 27, as keynote speaker at the 34th anniversary program of the Asian Law Caucus at the San Francisco Marriott Hotel.

"As Asian Americans, we have to speak out for the rights of immigrants to enter our country. Exclusion acts could happen again," said Takaki, a veteran scholar of diversity and a prolific writer who taught UCLA's first black history course in 1967.

In his speech, Takaki says, he will address a question that politicians and news pundits have not asked: Why is it that millions of Mexicans are leaving their homeland and risking their lives to cross the border? How are the trade policies of the North American Free Trade Agreement deepening poverty in Mexico? Immigration reform, Takaki says, must be based on seeing the big picture of massive migrations.

As for immigration policies toward Asians, Takaki cites the following examples of laws in U.S. history that excluded Asian immigrants:

. The Naturalization Act of 1790, which allowed only whites to become naturalized citizens and remained a federal law until 1952

. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred Chinese laborers from entering the United States and denied them naturalization

. The Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907, by which Japan agreed not to issue passports for Japanese citizens wishing to work in the United States in exchange for San Francisco schools agreeing not to discriminate against students of Japanese descent

. The Immigration Act of 1924, which severely limited the number of immigrants admitted to the United States though a quota system that excluded most Asians

A U.S. House of Representatives bill, passed last December, would allow criminal charges to be brought against illegal immigrants and employers who hire them, and calls for a wall to be built along the U.S.-Mexico border. A U.S. Senate bill, which is up for a final vote before Congress, would treat illegal immigrants according to their tenure and family ties in the United States.

The past month has seen formidable immigrant rights protests across the country, and more are expected.