ABAS has a long history of advocating for Asian Pacific Islander (API) issues. These issues include fairness for API lawyers, appointment of APIs to the judiciary, community issues relating to APIs, marriage equality, immigration, and racist and discriminatory practices. Most recently, ABAS filed an amicus brief in support of Sergio C. Garcia’s admission to the State Bar.
Hong Yen Chang was reportedly the first Chinese immigrant licensed to practice law in the United States. He attended Yale University and later, Columbia Law School. While he was admitted to the State Bar of New York, he was denied admission to the California State Bar in 1890 due to the Chinese Exclusion Act.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was a racist and unconstitutional law that was repealed in 1943. Not only did the Act restrict Chinese immigration as well as deny basic freedoms to Chinese, but it was also the only chapter of the United States code that focused on restricting a particular group due to their ethnicity or nationality. On June 18, 2012, the United States Congress passed a resolution formally expressing its regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Moreover, California lead the way in 1972, holding that the exclusion of non-citizens from the California State Bar violates the equal protection clauses of both the California and United States Constitutions. (Raffaelli v. Committee of Bar Examiners (1972) 7 Cal.3d 288; see also In re Griffiths (1973) 413 U.S. 717.) And unlike in Sergio Garcia’s case, 8 U.S.C. section 1621 did not exist in 1890; rather the only thing that kept Hong Yen Chang from admission, was a racist law that was on the books.
Today, ABAS stands with and supports UC Davis King Hall Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), in its efforts to posthumously admit Hong Yen Chang as a member of the California State Bar.
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