Historical Essays

Introduction

Introduction

Since 1900, Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) have represented unique and diverse constituencies in Congress. From the Philippines to California, from Virginia to Hawaii, APA Members and Senators have shaped landmark pieces of legislation in the 20th and 21st centuries. Fighting for justice and equality, their ranks have grown in both number and power. Many of their stories are being told here for the first time.

Exclusion and Empire, 1898–1941

Exclusion and Empire, 1898–1941

The annexation of both Hawaii and the Philippines in 1898 opened a new chapter in congressional history. Limited in their legislative tools as statutory representatives and stymied by racial prejudice, Resident Commissioners and Delegates worked to protect their islands’ economies and define their political status. Elsewhere across America, discriminatory policies at the federal and state level denied Asian immigrants access to citizenship and all but erased their political rights.

From Exclusion to Inclusion, 1941–1992

From Exclusion to Inclusion, 1941–1992

During World War II, the federal government imprisoned 120,000 Japanese Americans in remote, heavily guarded camps using a reactionary wartime policy called internment. Stripped of their civil liberties, some children who grew up in the camps would go on to win election to Congress many years later. After the war, new federal immigration law opened citizenship to millions, and in 1956 Dalip Saund of California became the first APA elected to Congress with full voting rights.

A Growing Diversity, 1993–2017

A Growing Diversity, 1993–2017

Starting in the early 1990s, the number of Asian Pacific Americans in Congress grew exponentially. The Members in this section account for roughly half of all APAs ever elected, and embody a diverse collection of personal and family histories. Representing constituencies from every corner of America, this group of legislators founded their Caucus in 1994 to support issues and legislation important to Asian Pacific American communities everywhere.