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Transcription: {SPEAKER name="Kumera Genet"}
[00:08:02]
Alright, I am Kumera Zakarias Genet.
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I'm from Austin, Texas originally. My family is from Ethiopia.
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Both my parents came to the U.S in the early 1970s to mid-'70s.
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My dad finished high school here in the United States.
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He left Ethiopia in 1973 I believe, and
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He was a student protester at the time.
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He was protesting against the government Aile Salassie.
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It was a very large student protest movement, and he was put in jail twice,
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And there was a very palpable fear for his life when he left, um so through the missionary services,
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He was able to find a way out of the country to go to school here to finish school and then uh eventually go to college
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And then my mother came on a student visa.
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So I grew up in Austin, Texas in a predominantly Mexican-immigrant and Mexican-American community
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I've worked in education and youth development for 10 years.
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First starting here in D.C in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in northwest D.C.
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Most of my students and the families that I've worked with were from El Salvador, but there were also large populations of students from the Dominican Republic, African-American students, Ethiopian students, and Guyanese.
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So it was a wonderful neighborhood.
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Um it's changed a lot since when I first started working there and a lot of those families don't live there anymore.
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But I've continued working in youth development, and now I'm at a national organization planning events
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and writing curricula for first-generation college students and first-generation Americans.
{SILENCE}

{SPEAKER name="Ted Gong"}
[00:10:04]
So, so, my name is Ted Gong.
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And, uh, I was born in the United States, so I didn't come here as an immigrant,
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and in fact, I'm fourth or fifth-generation Chinese-American.
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My great grandfather actually came working here at things like
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He wasn't in the gold mines. He wasn't in the railroads.
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He was out there shucking potatoes on the, in San Franciso Bay
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and then my father, grandfather, and great grandfather were born here.
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My mother came here after the war
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as a bride of an American citizen.
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Uh, you know my career is a little different from these people. I'm actually a retired foreign service officer.
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I've been 30 years working with the state department and the U.S immigration service
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and uh, most recently I've scouted out to[?] Homeland Security and Customs Border Protection
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I've worked on the 1986-'89 reforms actually and worked on the most recent reforms
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back before it was uh still being considered as passable before it collapsed completely
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So right now I'm in charge of a foundation.
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We call it the "1882 Foundation".
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1882 is the year in which the first comprehensive immigration act was passed.
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In the year 1882, Congress passed the law to prohibit Chinese from immigrating to the United States or becoming American citizens
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Based purely on race.
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You cannot come to the United States because you were Chinese.
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Ah, my mother was affected by that. I can tell that story later for you.
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But anyway, we created a foundation which is called the 1882 Foundation.
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I'm the executive director, and what we do is we try to educate the public about the significance of the 1882 laws.
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We want to talk about Chinese-American history.
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We do this through all histories and preservations of historical sites.
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Uh, we do workshops for teachers, curriculum reform,
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try to introduce the topic of exclusion acts into the curriculum.
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And we also do annual gatherings of museums, Asian-American museums, and historical societies, and try to share best practices.
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So, I look forward to continuing this discussion with all of you.

{SPEAKER name="Speaker 1"} [?]
[00:12:26]
Wonderful, the next question that I thought we would talk about is a little bit about the context in the country or area of origin
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Political issues, economic issues, environmental issues, um,
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and if you have any ideas, um, about the relationship to the United States.
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And Ted, since you just mentioned Chinese exclusion, and how your organization is trying to introduce that into curricula, I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit more about that
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Chinese exclusion in the United States, how Chinese immigrants were able to enter during exclusion
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and then why you think it's important for, um, school-age children to learn that history, and then we'll kind of work our way down the panel.
=
[00:13:20]

{SPEAKER name="Ted Gong"}
So there's a whole host of issues there.
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Everything from the very origins of immigration law, the whole immigration bureaucracy, the way we have as sort of an antagonist relationship between the applicant and the government workers.
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All actually stems from the 1882 Act if you really wanna think about it.
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In fact, not very many people know this but the mounted border patrol,
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which we think about that's patrolling the Mexican border, was actually formed to prevent Chinese
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from trying to sneak across from Mexico into the United States to avoid the 1882 laws.
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The 1882 law was passed to do two things:
prevent Chinese from immigrating to the United States by their race,
prevent them from becoming American citizens also by race.
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That law was renewed three times. In 1882 it was passed for 10 years.
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And pay attention to some of the vocabulary that is used. It was meant to be a temporary exclusion.
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Expediant thing. And it was approved 10 years later in 1892.
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And then it was approved again 10 years later in 1902 and made permanent.
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So, people talk about today about temporary visions of law they need to be a little bit of cautious of what that actually means.
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The 1882 laws completely raced based was not rescinded until 1943, and in 1943 they rescind it because of uh United States was in the war with Japan and China was our ally.
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So you couldn't really fight a war against fascism and say you those people that were your partners could not come to the United States.
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So, the question then is how do people come? And despite the laws, my father was able to come,
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different people were able to come, and we have things like people trying to pretend they were Amer-
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you couldn't prevent Americans who people who were born in the United States bec- be American Citizens.
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In fact, actually, the the birthright citizenship was determined by a Chinese exclusion case.
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It was a case by a guy named Huang Kim Art, who was born in Modesto, California went to China, and then came back.
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And the Chinese uh immigration officials tried to exclude him because he shouldn't be-
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he was born to immigrants of the United States who were not eligible, undocumented aliens. Right? They were undocumented people.

[00:15:51]
Right.

{SPEAKER name="Ted Gong"}
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So birthright citizenship was actually determined in a Supreme Court case brought to court by a Chinese person.
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A Chinese person established the 14th Amendment was if you were born in the United States you are a citizen.
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So, you need to be cautious too, that I think one of the most dangerous things that our face of the United,
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immigration today is actually not totally the prohibition about people coming in [?United States] temporary but the attack on potential birthright citizenship.
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So anybody is looking around right now and say we need to review that case cause the case in Supreme [?bout]
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as a split decision actually, although for the hundred-plus years,
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everyone assumes that birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment is secure.
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I think that if the Congress or other people want to pass a legislation that tests the case,
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the purpose is to bring it to the Supreme Court for another decision of that.
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There is a possibility that you're going to lose birthright citizenship.
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Birthright citizenship is not something that many countries in the modern world actually have,
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so it's not unusual for other countries to say we don't recognize birth simply by the fact that you're born within our territories,
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so we need to be careful about those things, those implications are there.
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So paper sons, undocumented people we now celebrate a lot of the people that come here pretend
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that they are Americans or they had other citizenship.
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My mother tried to come here when she was sixteen years old,
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and she couldn't come in the United States she was held at Angel Island
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which was an immigration detention center on San Francisco Bay.
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They say it's the Ellis Island of the West,
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but actually it was designed to detain and hold Chinese people to exclude them.
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My mother came there in May 1937 on a ship. She came here by herself.
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She stayed there for eleven months be sure she was deported back to China.
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So she couldn't get in the United States.
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And uh so uh that's something to think about in what we mean by who we exclude and how we can.
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There's an immigration law I remember looking at now that says if you try the Indian United States
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by pretending that you are American citizen then you are ineligible for life.
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That's one of the provisions in our current immigration law.
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But, and I thought to myself, you know if that law had been in place when my mother tried to enter
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and she tried to enter when she was trying to pretend that she was another person that was born in the United States,
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she would have been not able to come to the United States.
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I would not be here. I wouldn't be here talking to you guys.

[00:18:30]
Right. Yeah.
[[laughter]]
{SPEAKER nme= Speaker 1}
[00:18:31]
Anyway. That's some some background.
{SPEAKER name=Speaker 1}
[00:18:34]
Yeah, thank you.
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Um there is a book, for those of you interested, uh um on immigration in the West,
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there is a book on Angel Island, and particularly um the way it was used to detain Asian immigrants that were trying to enter the United States,
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and the other thing that Ted mentioned that I just wanted to really uh call your attention to
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is the fact that when we talk about so-called "Anchor babies" today, children born to undocumented immigrants,
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um it was an Asian American person that was the first "Anchor baby"
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because that Supreme Court case was about whether that person was actually a U.S. citizen because he was born in the United States.
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So we also need to think about the way in which ideas about race and immigration or immigrants change over time,
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how we kind of displace our anxieties about race and difference or um the economy on to different groups of people at particular times.
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Um, Kumera, I wonder if you could share a little bit about your-do you know about your family's-
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like your parents'-how, they got their student visas, was it easy, was it difficult,
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um do you have a sense of whether many other people had the same opportunity or
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whether things just kind of lined up for your parents?

{SPEAKER name="Kumera Genet"}
[00:19:56]
Uh yeah. I can talk about that. Um, I don't know a lot, and I think that's common




Transcription Notes:
I am not sure how to spell the government name or the speaker's middle name. I do not know if I should be adding the um's. --> I added most um's because they essentially are words being said I am not sure who the speaker is right after Ted Gong finishes speaking initially. New edit: around the 00:08:02 mark, the audio stops working and doesn't play after the second speaker discusses the antagonist relationship. It is not possible to continue transcribing without functioning audio. From looking at the About the Project provided for these pages, I think the unknown speaker could be Brenda PĂ©rez Amador or the moderator Perla Guerrero, but I am unsure, too.

Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact transcribe@si.edu.