On May 23, 2019 AABANY co-sponsored a reenactment of the Supreme Court cases Takao Ozawa v. United States (1922) and United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923) in the Ceremonial Courtroom at 225 Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn. The two historical cases describe the exclusionary immigration policies that prevented Asian immigrants from becoming naturalized citizens. The reenactment scripts were written by longtime AABANY members Kathy Hirata Chin and her husband, the Hon. Denny Chin. The event was jointly sponsored by the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY) and was held in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, during the month of May. The event was covered by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on the history of these reenactments, “The Chins began writing and performing these reenactments 12 years ago, and every year they create a new performance based on a different case. Judge Chin explained that they look for cases of importance historically and that still resonate today.”
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.
On March 11, AABANY co-sponsored a book release of Robert Tsai’s new book, Practical Equality. The event was held at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, and was also co-sponsored by UCLA Alumni New York Tri-State Network and Association of Asian American Yale Alumni.
Robert L. Tsai is a professor of law at American University. He is the author of Practical Equality and America’s Forgotten Constitutions and his essays have appeared in Boston Globe, Washington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, Politico, Boston Review, and Slate.
Professor Tsai’s new book discusses a practical approach towards fighting for equality through the lens of legal ideas. It proposes that arguments not directly relevant to equality may achieve the goals of equality. It offers an alternative and more practical approach to the fight for justice.
The event mainly featured a panel discussion of the book. We were honored to have on the panel Hon. Denny Chin, Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Suzanne Kim, Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School and Judge Denny Chin Scholar, and Professor Robert Tsai, the book’s author. The panel discussion featured many subjects, including Judge Chin and Prof. Kim’s thoughts on the book, people of colors’ historic struggles for justice, and contemporary political issues. The panel ended with a Q&A session, during which the audience engaged the panelists with questions raised by the panel discussion and the issues addressed in the book. Afterwards, the audience got to mingle among each other and with Professor Tsai, who also signed copies of the book which were made available for sale.
AABANY would like to congratulate Professor Tsai on the release of his new book. We thank Judge Chin, Professor Tsai, and Professor Kim for participating in the event. We thank Chris Kwok, Chair of the Issues Committee, for organizing the event. We also thank Seyfarth Shaw LLP for hosting the event at their office, and UCLA Alumni New York Tri-State Network and Association of Asian American Yale Alumni for co-sponsoring the event.
NAPABA Inspirational Video Series | Judge Denny Chin
How did the son of a garment factory seamstress and Chinese restaurant cook come to sit in chambers once occupied by Justice Thurgood Marshall?
The December edition of the NAPABA Inspirational Video Series showcases Judge Denny Chin and his path to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judge Chin leads you on a journey from his immigration to the U.S. from Hong Kong at the age of two to his first law school internship with the Southern District of New York where he realized—almost immediately—that he wanted to become a judge.
Be sure to discuss and share Judge Chin’s story on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using the hashtag, #NAPABAInspirationalSeries.
About Judge Chin Judge Denny Chin is a United States Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He was sworn in on April 26, 2010. He had previously served, from Sept. 13, 1994, through April 23, 2010, as a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York.
In the District Court, Judge Chin presided over a number of important matters, including cases involving Megan’s Law, the Million Youth March, Al Franken’s use of the phrase “Fair and Balanced” in the title of a book, the Naked Cowboy, and the Google Books project. He also presided over two criminal trials arising out of the United Nations Oil for Food Program, as well as the trial of an Afghan warlord charged with conspiring to import heroin, and the guilty plea and sentencing of financier Bernard L. Madoff.
In the Circuit Court, Judge Chin has authored opinions or dissents in cases involving the enforceability of arbitration clauses in on-line agreements, the General Motors bankruptcy, environmental regulations governing the discharge of ballast water from ships, the constitutionality of the government’s seizure and retention of computer hard drives, barriers to access for voters with disabilities, and the streaming of copyrighted television broadcasts over the Internet.
NEW YORK – March 28, 2017 – The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) is pleased to announce that the Honorable Denny Chin, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, will be receiving the New York Intellectual Property Law Association (NYIPLA) Outstanding Public Service Award. The award will be presented on the occasion of NYIPLA’s 95th Annual Dinner in honor of the Federal Judiciary being held at the New York Midtown Hilton on the evening of March 31, 2017.
“NYIPLA is proud to recognize one of New York’s own with this well-deserved Outstanding Public Service Award,” said Walter Hanley, President of NYIPLA. “We recognize Judge Chin for his remarkable career as a United States district court and circuit court judge, including his contributions to intellectual property jurisprudence through notable decisions in high profile trademark and copyright cases, his leadership of and pro bono service to the Asian American community, his role as teacher at Fordham Law School and frequent speaker on the law, and his service to the wider community on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations.”
“AABANY applauds and commends NYIPLA on its recognition of Judge Chin’s distinguished career on the bench, which includes major copyright and trademark cases, such as Fox v. Franken, Authors Guild et al. v. Google, and Naked Cowboy v. Blue M&M, that have contributed significantly to the development of intellectual property law,” says Susan Shin, President of AABANY. “We know well Judge Chin’s impact as a trailblazer in the Asian American community and for serving as an exemplary role model and inspiration to generations of law students and lawyers. We agree with NYIPLA that Judge Chin is highly deserving of the Outstanding Public Service Award and congratulate him on receiving this important recognition from NYIPLA.”
The Asian American Bar Association of New York is a professional membership organization of attorneys concerned with issues affecting the Asian Pacific American community. Incorporated in 1989, AABANY seeks not only to encourage the professional growth of its members but also to advocate for the Asian Pacific American community as a whole. AABANY is the New York regional affiliate of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA).