By Aaron Sayama, Summer 2012 Intern
A cursory glance through a US history textbook will reveal numerous federal and state policies that were crafted with the intended purpose of excluding certain racial or ethnic groups. The two Supreme Court cases highlighted below are significant victories for minority communities—in particular AAPI communities—in their struggle for equal rights and protection.
Weedin v. Chin Bow, June 6, 1927
Chin Bow was born in China to Chin Dun, an American citizen who had never been in the United States for a prolonged period of time. Chin Dun’s father and Chin Bow’s grandfather, Chin Tong, however, were both born in the United States and thus United States citizens by birth. As Chin Bow sought entry into the United States, he was categorically denied admission by Luther Weedin, the Commissioner of Immigration at the Port of Seattle. Weedin stated that because Chin Bow’s father had not resided in the United States as an American citizen, he could not pass on citizenship to his son. The board of special inquiry of the immigration bureau agreed with Weedin’s ruling, and the Secretary of Labor ordered Chin Bow to be deported.
In Chief Justice Taft’s majority opinion, the Court unequivocally overturned the ruling, stating that the under the law of blood (jus sanguinis), “the rights of citizenship shall descend,” and Chin Bow should be admitted to the United States.
Loving et ux. v. Virginia, June 12, 1967
In June of 1958, two residents of Viriginia, Mildred Jeter, an African American woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were legally married in the District of Columbia. Upon relocating to the state of Virginia, the Lovings were charged with violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. After pleading guilty and relocating back to the District of Columbia, the Lovings filed a motion in state trial court arguing the ruling was in tension with the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of Virginia’s antimiscegenation statutes.
Citing US Supreme Court precedents of Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States, Chief Justice Earl Warren strongly condemned the use of antimiscegenation statutes, calling these practices “measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.” Chief Justice Warren’s strong denunciation of antimiscegenation statutes and the Supreme Court’s reversal allowed for white-minority couples to live legally anywhere in the United States for the first time since antimiscegenation laws were enacted at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
“Supreme Court: Weedin v. Chin Bow, June 6, 1927,” The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience, pp. 208-210.
“Supreme Court: Loving et. ux. v. Virginia, June 12, 1967,” The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience, pp. 368-360.