The Hart-Cellar Act–A South Asian Perspective?

*Please pardon the apparent dearth of eloquent language and length of the following post.

Zhou and Gatewood’s introduction presented one of the primary reasons for the rapid influx of the Asian American population in the United States: the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965 (which went into effect in 1968). Zhou and Gatewood mention that the act was established to reunite families and bring in laborers from Asian nations that had many refugees (i.e. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong).

I knew my uncle was the first on my father’s side to came to America shortly after 1968 (meaning the act was still fairly recent around that time period), but I was never completely aware of how he actually came here. Out of sheer curiosity, I called my dad and asked him how my uncle came to America (and no, this is definitely not one of those beautifully heartbreaking transnationalism stories, in case you were as excited as I was initially).  My dad only knew that his brother left for Hong Kong back in 1973 to see a friend for a month before deciding he would leave for California [with the same friend]. I figured the Hart-Cellar Act could not have prompted this migration in any way because my uncle is Indian. They lived in a rather remote (not necessarily rural) area where nobody was very aware about worlds outside of India. Plus, as the Zhou-Gatewood article mentioned, the Hart-Cellar Act applied to those trapped in camps in “Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Hong Kong”–so how could my Uncle have a friend in Hong Kong anyways? He never left India before then!

I suppose you can understand my confusion by now, so I simply called my uncle and bothered him about this. He left for Hong Kong to start a business with his friend; however, what my Uncle did not tell the rest of my family was that him and his friend wanted to start the business in America. I asked if this friend was a non-residential Indian. His friend wasn’t Indian, but American. Odd. After a month with that friend mapping out their potential business (selling jewelry on the street…), they left for Honolulu, Hawaii followed by Scranton, California. After a year of selling jewelry with his so-called business partner, the business partner cheated him and ran off with all the money. Harsh, right? This blog post is far too long now, so I will cut straight to the point: I was really confused about how and why my Uncle came here. I asked my grandmother and relatives in India: nobody really knew of an “American Dream”. Indians did not know much about America, or even about Hong Kong…so how did my Uncle? I asked him if him and his friend knew anything about the Hart-Cellar Act since he left India only five years after the act went into effect. He paused momentarily. It may be hyperbolic to say that it felt like forever, but I can assure you it was quite the pause. He didn’t say anything, to be honest. It was just quiet on the line so I asked him again and he said he couldn’t tell me.

Isn’t that strange? I know I’m probably making a big deal about this, but this creates a whole different diversion to the Asian migration to the United States (or at least the South Asian perspective of it).

One Response to “The Hart-Cellar Act–A South Asian Perspective?”

  1. ukapoor Says:

    I am so sorry. This is looks a lot longer than I expected…