Immigrants Rights

Attempt to Strip Japanese Americans of Voting Rights

As the U.S. government was forcing Japanese Americans to leave their west coast homes to be incarcerated in concentration camps, the Native Sons of the Golden West brought a lawsuit to deny American citizens of Japanese descent their right to vote.

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LA Board of Supervisors Apologizes to Mexican Americans Deported in the 1930s

February 28, 2012

Acknowledging the role of their predecessors in the mass deportation during the 1930s of Mexican American citizens and legal residents, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors formally apologized for the County's role in the federal program.

Between 1930-1939, hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans were deported. Their parents had been recruited to work on U.S. farms and ranches during a World War I labor shortage. But when the Great Depression hit, they were scapegoated for taking "American" jobs. Immigration agents conducted mass raids in homes, businesses and even Los Angeles' downtown plaza, sweeping up people based only on their skin color.

By 1939, more than a million people, an estimated 60% of them U.S. citizens, were rounded up and sent to Mexico.

In 2006, the state of California formally apologized for its role in the so-called "repatriation" program.

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Plaque unveiled at Los Angeles Plaza de Cultura y Artes to commemorate the hundreds of thousands who were forced out of the U.S.

Majority of Californians View State's Diversity as Asset and Challenge

January 28, 2010

The findings of a new field poll show that 58 percent of California voters consider the diversity of the state's population both an advantage but also a source of problems. More respondents (24%) said they considered California's diversity only an asset, while fewer (14%) believe it is only a challenge.

Since statehood, California has been a place of incredible diversity, as people, albeit mostly men, from all over the globe came to the state because of the gold rush. In recent years, the state's diversity has been the focus of initiative battles that have targeted the civil liberties of minority groups. In 1994, voters approved Proposition 187 which was meant to deny state services to undocumented immigrants. The law never went into effect because Governer Gray Davis did not pursue the state's defense of the propostion after state and federal judges barred implementation of the law. In 1996, Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in state programs, passed by 54%. And in 2008, voters altered the state constitution to deny gay men and lesbians the right to marry.

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Field Poll director calls findings hopeful as California voters are more positive than negative about the state's diverse demographics.

KQED Forum: California, 'Wherever There's a Fight'

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Date: 
July 28, 2010

Host Michael Krasny talks with Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi about the many unsung heroes of California's past profiled in their book.

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California Supreme Court Posthumously Grants Law License to Chinese Immigrant

March 18, 2015

On March 16, 2015, a unanimous California Supreme Court posthumously granted a law licencse to Hong Yen Chang, a Chinese immigrant who unsuccessfully petitioned the state high court in 1890 for a licence to practice law.

The court in 1890 cited the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred virtually all immigration from China and denied Chinese immigrants naturalization rights, as well as anti-Chinese laws memorialized into the California constituion of 1879 as the basis for its denial.

Chang arrived in the United States in 1872 when he was 13 to study.  He eventually attended Yale and earned a degree from Columbia Law School in 1886. He sat for the New York bar exam by special act of the legislature. When he was admitted to the New York state bar, the New York Times reported that Chang was the first Chinese immigrant admitted to any bar in the United States.

In 1890, he moved to California to work in San Francisco's Chinese community as an attorney. At the time, discrimination against Chinese immigrants was rampant.  In 1879, California voters ratified a new state constitution that denied Chinese the right to vote, prohibited the employment of Chinese by corporations or on public works except in punishment for a crime, and authorized cities to require Chinese to live outside city limits or only in segregated neighborhoods.

Through a series of federal court cases, Chinese plaintiffs were able to invalidate most of the anti-Chinese provisions. But it took almost a century for the last of the 1879 anti-Chinese constitutional provisions to be removed from the books by a statewide ballot initiative.

In 2014, members of the UC Davis Law School's Asian Pacific American Law Students Association asked the Califonria Supreme Court to award Chang his law license, pointing out that the laws that prevented him from practicing as an attorney have been discredited and repealed and asking the court to right the historic wrong against Chang.

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Hong Yen Chen was denied a licence to practice law in 1890 because he was Chinese

California Supreme Court Upholds Tuition Law for Undocumented Students

November 16, 2010

The California Supreme Court unanimously upheld a 2002 law allowing students, including undocumented immigrants, to pay lower resident tuition rates at public colleges and universities if they attended a California high school for three years and graduated.

It was the first decision in the nation to affirm the right of undocumented students to pay resident tuition rates, rather than higher out-of-state rates.

Justice Ming Chin, one of the most conservative members of the state supreme court, wrote the opinion and dismissed the contention of attorneys challenging the law who claim that it conflicts with a federal ban against providing undocumented immigrants benefits based on residency.

Chin wrote that the state law was not based on residency and that "If Congress had intended to prohibit states entirely from making unlawful aliens eligible for in-state tuition, it could easily have done so."

The attorney representing the plaintiffs, a group of U.S. citizens who are paying higher out-of-state tuition rates, plans to appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court.

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A unanimous court rules that undocumented immigrants and other students who attended California high schools for three years are eligible for lower resident tuition rates at state universities and colleges.

Wherever There's a Fight on New America Now Radio Program

November 12, 2009

Wherever There's a Fight co-author, Stan Yogi, spoke with Sandip Roy, host of New America Now: Dispatches from the New Majority.  The interview was broadcast on San Francisco's KALW radio on Friday, November 6, and again on Sunday, November 8.  Listen to the interview by clicking on the button below.

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Listen to Wherever There's a Fight co-author Stan Yogi being interviewed by Sandip Roy of KALW's New America Now.

Dolores Huerta to Receive Medal of Freedom

April 28, 2012

President Obama named longtime civil rights and labor leader Dolores Huerta a recipient of the Medal of Freedom, the United State's highest civilian honor. 

With Cesar Chavez, Huerta co-founded the National Farmworkers Association in 1962 to fight against the exploitation and degredation of farm laborers. Three years later, that union joined a grape strike started by Filipino workers in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee.  Eventually the two unions merged into the United Farm Workers. 

The United Farm Workers called on people around the world to support the strike by boycotting grapes. Unions, churches, students and millions of consumers answered the call. After 5 long years, the first union contracts were signed, guaranteeing farmworkers basic protections like toilets and drinking water in the fields, overtime pay, and the right to join a union. 

Huerta was influential in securing the passage of California's Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975, which requires that farmworkers be allowed to organize unions that their employers are bound to recognize.

Also among this year's awardees is Gordon Hirabayashi, who as a student in Seattle during World War II defied the government's exclusion orders against Japanese Americans. Hirabayashi died earlier this year.

The Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who have made especially mertiorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. 

The awards will be presented at the White House in late spring.


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Co-founder of the United Farm Workers union is one of 13 Americans to be awarded the nation's highest civilian honor in 2012

Two Supreme Court Justices Critical of State Initiatives

February 20, 2010

State Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno expressed concern that fundamental rights can be changed by a simple majority vote through California's initiative process. Moreno was part of the four justice majority that in May 2008 struck down California laws banning same-sex marriages. Six months later, 52% of voters passed Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages. Moreno was the sole dissenter when the court upheld Proposition 8 in May 2009. In his dissent, he wrote that the court's decision "places at risk the state constitutional rights of all disfavored minorities." 

In a recent interview, he commented that voters can be misinformed by initiative campaigns, and that the initiative process, unlike the deliberative legislative process, does not benefit from review by fact-finding committees.

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Within days, Chief Justice Ronald George, in a speech at Stanford Law School, was highly critical of California's initiative process. He suggested reforms, such as prohibiting changes to the constitution through initiatives.

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The initiative process has been significant in shaping and misshaping civil liberties in California. It began as a progressive tool in 1911 to ensure that legislators controlled by the railroads and big business would not block laws benefitting the majority of Californians. The first initiatives granted women the right to vote, established a limit on working hours for women and children, and set a minimum wage.

But inititatives have been used more often to deny rights. In 1920, voters approved three to one the "Alien Land Law" initiative, prohibiting Japanese immigrants from leasing land. Proposition 14 passed by a margin of two to one in 1964. That initiative amended the state constitution to rescind existing fair housing laws and prohibited the legislature from passing future laws to prevent racial discrimination in housing. In 1967, the United States Supreme Court struck down the proposition as a violation of the federal constitution.  In 1994, voters approved Proposition 187, which required state programs, including public schools and public health services, to deny aid to undocumented immigrants.  A court injunction prevented the law from going into effect.  And in 1996, the passage of Proposition 209 outlawed affirmative action in state programs.

Within a week, state supreme court Chief Justice Ronald George and Associate Justice Carlos Moreno expressed concerns about California's initiative system.

Elaine and Stan on KPIX's "Bay Sunday"

Date: 
June 12, 2011

Watch an appearance by Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi on KPIX's "Bay Sunday" program with host Sydnie Kohara.

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