AOKI Center and UC Davis History Department colloquium on Free People of Color: Race, Law and Freedom in the 19th and 20th Century U.S.
Gabriel "Jack" Chin, Edward L. Barrett Jr. Chair of Law, Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Law, and Director of Clinical Legal Education
The War Against Asian Sailors and Fishers
Beginning in the 1880s, maritime unions sought federal legislation to prevent Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Asian Indian sailors from serving as crew on U.S.-Flag vessels. This campaign succeeded in mandating citizenship requirements for crews which remain in the U.S. Code today. Similarly, federal and state laws limited the ability of Asians to fish, own fishing boats, or to serve on crews of fishing vessels. Few of these laws targeted Asians by name, but legislative history and contemporary media accounts make clear that racial exclusion motivated many facially neutral requirements such as literacy tests and restriction of jobs to citizens or those who had declared their intention to become citizens. As U.S. law restricted naturalization by race from 1790 to 1952, requiring citizenship had direct racial effects—white immigrants could be fishers or sailors, but not Asian immigrants. The expansiveness of exclusionary laws across time, geography, and level of government, its use of proxy categories to achieve racial discrimination, and yet its obscurity today, suggest the comprehensive nature of racial discrimination in the pre-Civil Rights era.
Gabriel "Jack" Chin is a teacher and scholar of Immigration Law, Criminal Procedure, and Race and Law. His scholarship has appeared in the Penn, UCLA, Cornell, and Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties law reviews and the Yale, Duke and Georgetown law journals among others. The U.S. Supreme Court cited his work on collateral consequences of criminal conviction in Chaidez v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 1103, 1109 (2013), in which the Court called his Cornell Law Review article “the principal scholarly article on the subject” and in Padilla v. Kentucky, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010), which agreed with his contention that the Sixth Amendment required defense counsel to advise clients about potential deportation consequences of guilty pleas. Justice Sotomayor cited his Penn Law Review article in her dissent in Utah v. Strieff, 136 S. Ct. 2056, 2070 (2016).
He teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Immigration, and is Director of Clinical Legal Education. He also works with students on professional projects. His efforts with students to repeal Jim Crow laws still on the books includes a successful 2003 petition to the Ohio legislature to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, 136 years after the state disapproved it during the ratification process. He and his students also achieved the repeal of anti-Asian alien land laws which were on the books in Kansas, New Mexico and Wyoming. For this work, "A" Magazine named him one of the “25 Most Notable Asians in America.” In connection with classes with a practical component, he has tried felony cases and argued criminal appeals with his students.
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