Civics, Immigration, and the Month of May

May 1, 2009

Who are Asian Americans? Derived from different countries and cultures, some are recent immigrants, some are resident aliens, some are naturalized citizens. Many of us are, simply, Americans.

Let’s think about this for a minute. How do you get to be an American? The one sure-fire way is to be born here. That’s somewhat odd, really. In a country that has had no qualms, in the past, about passing anti-minority legislation, we have managed to hold onto the principle that anyone born on American soil is an American citizen — thanks to a Supreme Court case known as United States v. Wong Kim Ark.

In 1898 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution by ruling that a Chinese man named Wong Kim Ark was indeed a U.S. citizen because he was born in San Francisco. Passed in the aftermath of the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Although the amendment was intended to secure the rights of African Americans, it has also been interpreted to apply to other ethnic groups whose civil rights have been challenged.

So on this first day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I am pleased to note that the Indiana academic standards for high school U.S. history include a mention of Wong Kim Ark (USH.2.3). In Hoosierati recently we’ve been talking about immigration, history, and civics. Here’s a good example of how these lessons matter, to some people, in real and lasting ways.

NOTE: Our Resource Connection partner, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, has an interactive resource that lets you be the judge on this and other civil rights cases.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: