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The dark history of the Chinese Exclusion Act - Robert Chang

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In 1882, the United States Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first federal law that restricted immigration based explicitly on nationality. In practice, the Act banned entry to all ethnically Chinese immigrants besides diplomats, and prohibited existing immigrants from obtaining citizenship. Robert Chang details the lasting impact the Act had on immigrant rights and freedoms.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Robert Chang
  • Director Mohammad Babakoohi, Yijia Cao
  • Narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Mohammad Babakoohi
  • Animator Mohammad Babakoohi, Elahe Baloochi
  • Compositor Poorya Goodarzi
  • Art Director Mohammad Babakoohi, Yijia Cao
  • Sound Designer Mohammad Babakoohi
  • Music Jian Nanyin
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Production Coordinator Abdallah Ewis
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more creators
Additional Resources for you to Explore
In learning Chae Chan Ping’s story, you might be reminded of the stories of those who were in transit when the newly installed Trump administration issued Executive Order 13769. It invalidated immigration visas that had already been issued to persons from certain countries. Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi citizen who had worked in Iraq for the United States, was traveling with his family on special immigrant visas and had the misfortune of having EO 13769 signed and go into effect while he and his family were on a plane headed to New York City.

Upon arrival in New York, he was detained. A lawsuit on his behalf was filed quickly and he was ordered released by a federal judge. Though things worked out for him and his family, others subject to the executive order, including subsequent versions (Executive Order 13780 and Presidential Proclamation 9645), were not so lucky.

Though most lower courts found the executive orders to be illegal, the U.S. Supreme Court in Trump v. Hawaii, relied upon the plenary power doctrine, that had its roots in racism as exemplified in what happened to Chae Chan Ping, to uphold travel ban.

In upholding the travel ban, the U.S. Supreme Court ignored statements made by candidate and President Trump, that he intended to limit or stop Muslims from entering the country. The plenary power doctrine has been heavily criticized because it allows for the executive and legislature to engage in racial and ethnic animus. Yet the doctrine persists.

You can learn more about Darweesh and the legal challenges that culminated in Trump v. Hawaii in Robert S. Chang, Whitewashing Precedent: From the Chinese Exclusion Case to Korematsu to the Muslim Travel Ban Cases, 68 Case Western Reserve Law Review 1183 (2018).

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Robert Chang
  • Director Mohammad Babakoohi, Yijia Cao
  • Narrator Jack Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Mohammad Babakoohi
  • Animator Mohammad Babakoohi, Elahe Baloochi
  • Compositor Poorya Goodarzi
  • Art Director Mohammad Babakoohi, Yijia Cao
  • Sound Designer Mohammad Babakoohi
  • Music Jian Nanyin
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Production Coordinator Abdallah Ewis
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more creators

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