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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Established in 1991, the Asian Pacific American Law Journal (APALJ) is dedicated entirely to Asian Pacific American issues. APALJ is one of only two law journals in the nation that focuses exclusively on the legal issues affecting APA communities. Run by students at the UCLA School of Law, the Journal seeks to facilitate discourse on issues affecting South Asian, Southeast Asian, East Asian, and Pacific Islander communities in the United States.

APALJ plays an important role by providing a forum for legal scholars, practitioners and students to communicate about emerging concerns specific to Asian Pacific Americans and by disseminating these writings to APA populations. We work hard to continually outreach to the community and initiate discourse on APA issues. The journal welcomes articles from academics and professionals in the field, as well as comments and case notes from law students.

Asian Pacific American Law Journal

Issue cover


Letter From the Asian/Pacific Islander Law Students Association Regarding Stephen Bainbridge

The following letter from the UCLA School of Law chapter of the Asian/Pacific Islander Law Students Association was sent to UCLA School of Law administrators on April 13, 2020, in response to anti-Asian statements by a professor. This was not an isolated incidence of hateful language in the UCLA Law community. Earlier in the school year, other UCLA Law professors used the n-word in academic settings with no warning to students. The letter demonstrates the possibilities for and acievements of antiracist student organizing during a pandemic, when students have no access to the buildings and spaces that have traditionally defined their communities. It is part of ongoing organizing work at law schools and other institutions of higher learning across the country aimed at identifying and uprooting individual and insitutional racism. UCLA Law Review Discourse has chosen to publish the letter as written; the only changes are the inclusion of a preamble and moving hyperlinks to footnotes.

Sowing The Seeds of Chinese Exclusion As the Reconstruction Congress Debates Civil Rights Inclusion

During Reconstruction, Congress amended the Constitution to fundamentally reorder the legal and social status of African Americans. Congress faced the challenge of determining how Chinese people would fit in to the emerging constitutional structure. This article draws on a method of digitizing the Congressional Globe to more broadly explore the arguments about Chinese rights and privileges during Reconstruction. Unlike African Americans, Chinese were part of an international system of trade and diplomacy; treatment of other people of color was understood as a purely domestic question. In addition, while a core feature of Reconstruction was ending the enslavement of African Americans and overruling Dred Scott by making Africans Americans born in the U.S. citizens and granting them eligibility for naturalization, for Chinese, Congress chose to leave in place racial restrictions on naturalization, which had existed since 1790. This rendered them perpetual foreigners in America. With regard to labor rights, by abolishing slavery, Congress intended to raise up the freed men, giving African Americans a chance to work on equal terms with other citizens. In the main, Congress continued to treat the Chinese people as constitutive of the so-called “Chinese question,” a nominalization that ascribed to them features of caste, from which there was little possibility of upward mobility. Congress recognized that some Chinese workers in the U.S. who were building railroads or working in mines might be subject to labor exploitation from bosses and from jobbers, sometimes white and sometimes Chinese. However, rather than intervene to liberate Chinese laborers through laws that would free them from involuntary servitude, and give them fair terms on which to compete, Congress eventually moved in another direction: excluding the Chinese altogether in 1882.

Asian American-Owned Banks Do Count: No Wrongful Jailing of Abacus Bank

The 2008 financial crisis, described as the worst U.S. economic disaster since the Great Depression, resulted in the criminal prosecution of just one, singular bank: Abacus Federal Savings Bank. This small, family-run community bank based in NYC's Chinatown, catering primarily to Chinese immigrants, never invested in the mortgage-backed securities nor originated the subprime mortgages that were at the root of the financial crisis. Moreover, institutions such as Abacus provide critical services to underbanked populations and support the economic prosperity of minority communities. Yet, the Manhattan District Attorney aggressively prosecuted Abacus Bank with a 184-count indictment. Ultimately, after a four-month jury trial and 10 million dollars in defensive litigation costs, Abacus Bank, a bank deemed "small enough to jail" as opposed to "too big to fail," remains the only U.S. bank indicted for mortgage fraud related to the 2008 crisis. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance pushed the boundaries in his aggressive pursuit of a lowest hanging fruit minority bank. This analysis addresses why Abacus Bank did not attempt to allege selective prosecution to quash the DA's case and also never brought a suit against the government in connection with the aggressive prosecution tactics used by the DA. The Abacus Bank trial still serves as a lesson for prosecutors to understand and use as future guidance in how they should remain aware of cultural context and implicit biases when exercising their discretion in targeting businesses that cater to underserved minority communities.

The Overlooked Tragedy of the Pandemic: How Media Coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic has Led to an Increase in Anti-Asian Bias and Xenophobia

The media is a vital source of information, especially in times of crisis. Since the 2019 novel coronavirus became a worldwide pandemic, it has become a frequent topic of discussion in the media, and its mysterious origin has caused lots of speculation regarding its roots. Historically, scientists have named novel diseases based on the country or region in which it was thought to have originated; however, in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) publicly discouraged this practice because of the stigma it tended to attach to people and places. Despite this warning and the WHO's deliberate name selection for the 2019 novel coronavirus — "COVID-19" — the media and many public figures, including former United States President Donald Trump, have consistently used stigmatizing language, such as "China virus," associating the virus with China because the first confirmed cases of the virus were discovered in Wuhan, China. Just as the WHO warned, this stigmatizing language has created a wave of violence and discrimination towards Asian Americans and caused considerable damage to U.S.-China relations. This Article explores the correlation between the presence of such stigmatizing rhetoric in the media and the damage to U.S.-China relations. It concludes by providing suggestions to combat the crisis of anti-Asian bias and xenophobia and encourages the U.S. and China to set aside their differences and work together to alleviate tensions and end the pandemic.

Native Hawaiians: The Forgotten in Legal Education

Law school admission data results demonstrate significant continuing education and professional barriers encountered by Native Hawaiians. Heavy reliance on standardized admission testing and formulaic admissions standards regrettably deny legal education to an entire race and culture. Institutions vested with the obligation and opportunity to educate are urged to recognize the failings of current admission standards and to move towards a fair and just process to enable Native Hawaiians to pursue higher learning in the face of the historic disparities and disenfranchisement that they've suffered.

Addressing Gendered Trauma, Identity, and the Crime-to-Deportation Pipeline Among Southeast Asian Men

Deportation continues to be a pressing concern for the Southeast Asian community. Since 1998, more than 17,000 Southeast Asians have received orders of removal, and over 1,900 have been deported. Notably, the majority of these deportation orders result from old convictions of "aggravated felony" crimes, and the majority of those facing deportation are men. This suggests not only an entrenched crime-to-deportation pipeline, but that Southeast Asian men may face specific issues that predispose them to crime, and for those without U.S. citizenship, deportation. An analysis of Southeast Asian refugee experiences and their intersection with the U.S.' deportation and carceral systems reveals that Southeast Asian men navigate a complicated system of generational and refugee-related trauma, institutional racism, gender disparitites, and socioeconomic inequality. Though these men do retain agency in their actions and choices, these factors often position them towards crime, and ultimately deportation. In recognition of these findings, this Note discusses the potential for community-based education on crime and deportation as a beneficial solution for Southeast Asian men and youth.