AABANY Co-Sponsors: A Reenactment of Ozawa & Thind

On Thursday, May 23, 2019, AABANY and SABANY co-sponsored a trial reenactment of two Supreme Court cases, Takao Ozawa v. United States (1922), and United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923) at the Ceremonial Courtroom in 225 Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn. These cases revolved around the fight of two Asian Americans to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

Takao Ozawa, was born in Japan but moved to the United States at a young age in 1914. He attended the University of California, became a businessman, converted to Christianity, got married and had children in the United States. He sought to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, but his application was denied. His fight for citizenship went all the way to the Supreme Court, where he argued that people of Japanese descent should be classified as “free white persons” under the Naturalization Act of 1906. However, Justice Sutherland, writing for a unanimous Court, held that a person of Japanese descent could not be classified as “white.” In reaching that decision, the court relied on scientific evidence and found that the term “white persons” in the Naturalization Act of 1906 only includes persons of the “Caucasian race.”

Bhagat Singh was born in India and received his bachelor’s degree there before moving to the United States, seeking higher education in 1913. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of California and went on to give lectures in metaphysics. He also joined the U.S. Army during World War I and became the first turbaned Sikh man to serve alongside American soldiers. After the war ended, he was honorably discharged and applied for citizenship. His petition for citizenship was granted initially in Oregon, but government attorneys initiated proceedings to have it canceled on the grounds that he was not “white.” His case went to the Supreme Court, where he presented scientific evidence asserting that South Asians, such as himself, were actually of Aryan descent and therefore of the Caucasian race and thus he should be granted citizenship.

However, the Supreme Court held that even though it “may be true that the blond Scandinavian and the brown Hindu have a common ancestor in the dim reaches of antiquity … the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences between them today.” The court backtracked on the rationale it used in Ozawa, where it relied on scientific evidence to find that Takao Ozawa could not be classified as Caucasian, and therefore was ineligible for citizenship.

As a result of the Supreme Court’s rulings in Ozawa and Thind, many Asians were stripped of their citizenship retroactively, leading a man named Vaishno Das Bagai to take his own life. He left a note that read: “But now they come and say to me I am no longer an American citizen. What have I made of myself and my children? We cannot exercise our rights, we cannot leave this country. Humility and insults… blockades this way, and bridges burned behind.”

These two Supreme Court decisions are a stain on our great nation’s history. They set the precedent that being an American was not enough, that to be a real American you had to be “white” based on society’s perception of what qualifies as “white” during a given period of time in history.

The reenactment serves as a reminder of the struggles that Asian Americans had to endure in the past, and it highlights why we must continue to strive to create change for the future generations of Asian Americans.

We thank Judge Denny Chin and Kathy Hirata Chin for leading the reenactment program and thank our judicial all-star cast which included: EDNY Chief Judge Hon. Dora Irizarry, Hon. Kiyo Matsumoto, Hon. Pamela Chen, Hon. Peggy Kuo, Hon. Sanket Bulsara, and Hon. Faviola Soto.

Thanks to SABANY for performing this re-enactment. AABANY was proud to be a co-sponsor, presenting 1.5 CLE credits in the Diversity & Inclusion category.

Citizenship Fair | The New York Public Library

Citizenship Fair | The New York Public Library

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After a full day of CLE sessions and other programs, attendees at the NAPABA Northeast Regional/AABANY Fall Conference enjoyed a cocktail reception, sponsored by Day Pitney. Attendees from AABANY and the northeast affiliates, including from Canada, met, mingled, connected and re-connected over drinks and hors d’oeuvres. 

At the reception, the AABANY Law Review, which was launched at the 2011 Fall Conference, presented its first Scholarly Paper Prize to Greg Robinson (Professor of History at l’Université du Québec à Montréal)  for his article, In Defense of Birthright Citizenship: The JACL, the NAACP, and Regan v. King. Prof. Robinson accepted the award and offered brief remarks about his published work, to be released in the upcoming issue of the AABANY Law Review.

Also during the reception, Key Sponsor Hudson Court Reporting and Video and Elite Sponsor Baker Tilly held drawings for prizes. Congratulations to the raffle winners, and thanks to Hudson and Baker Tilly for being such strong supporters of AABANY!

Following the reception, several committees hosted dinners: The Real Estate/Solo Small Firm Committees hosted their dinner at S Dynasty, sponsored by Bank of America. The Litigation/Young Lawyers Committees had a wonderful Italian dinner at Aperitivo. The Bankruptcy/Corporate Law Committees had their dinner at Banc Café, thanks to sponsors UBS and Donlin Recano. Thomson Reuters sponsored the Intellectual Property Committee dinner at Fusia.

Right after the committee dinners, energetic attendees convened at Rare View Rooftop for the afterparty. The attendees enjoyed drinks and each other’s company while admiring panoramic views of the New York City skyline, at least until the rain came down. Not to be deterred by the downpour, guests took the party downstairs to Rare Bar & Grill on the ground floor to continue their post-conference celebration.

We hope everyone who came to the 2013 NAPABA Northeast Regional/AABANY Fall Conference had an enjoyable and productive time. We hope to see you at the 2013 NAPABA Annual Convention in Kansas City in November!

AABANY Law Review Announces Winners of the Scholarly Paper Prize and Student Note Competition

The AABANY Law Review is pleased to announce the winners of its inaugural Scholarly Paper Prize and Student Note Competition:
 

  • Greg Robinson (Professor of History at l’Université du Québec à Montréal) for his article, In Defense of Birthright Citizenship: The JACL, the NAACP, and Regan v. King. The Article tells the story of Regan v. King, in which West Coast nativists brought suit in federal court to disenfranchise American citizens of Japanese origin. The case reaffirmed the birthright citizenship of all Americans (first recognized by the Supreme Court in its 1898 decision Wong Kim Ark) and represents a pioneering instanceof multiracial coalition-building as the NAACP allied itself with the Japanese American Citizens League to fight for their constitutional rights. 
  • Daniel Bowman (Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law) for his note, Justifying Disparate Impact: Why a Discriminatory Effect Standard is Essential to the Fair Housing Act. Daniel’s note examines the historical development of the disparate impact standard under Title VII and the Fair Housing Act, and considers the upcoming Supreme Court case of Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc., which will address the question of whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act. 

In addition to a cash prize, both authors’ pieces will appear in the AABANY Law Review’s winter issue, and Prof. Robinson will be speaking about his paper at the NAPABA Northeast Regional/AABANY Fall Conference. Congratulations to both, and thanks to everyone who submitted! For more information about the AABANY Law Review, please visit http://www.aabanylawreview.org/ or contact [email protected]