Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rockaway Beach

1) A FDNY firefighter is seen dragging a person out of the water to safety on the shore. Many did not know how long they were on the vessel nor did they know whether or not they would be able to stay in the United States. June 7, 2008 (CBS 2 Classic). 2) The Golden Venture. 286 illegal Chinese immigrants as well as 13 members made the trek from Bangkok, Thailand to the United States on this vessel. June 7, 2008 (CBS 2 Classic). 3) A look at Rockaway Beach today (Grayson Maldonado and Dalue Song).

Location: Fort Tilden, Queens, 193rd Street and Rockaway Point Blvd

Directions: A Train to Broad Channel, S Shuttle to Rockaway Park, walk/cab to Destination

On Sunday, June 6th1993, a cargo ship, Golden Venture, ran aground on a sandbar off Rockaway Beach in Queens when it attempted to smuggle more than 300 illegal Chinese immigrants (mostly from Fujian Province) into the United States, killing a few and the rest were captured. Many of the immigrants had paid up to thirty thousand dollars for this passage. Since the start of the year, more than 1,800 illegal Chinese immigrants had already been detained by U.S. Immigration. However, this particularly shocking event brought further attention to the greater issue of illegal immigration.[1]

This incident reflected the era of immigration reform which would be brought forth by the government under President Bill Clinton. During the 1990s, the U.S. was already under a decade of massive legal and illegal immigration. Before the Golden Venture accident, the nation was already caught up in a major wave of anti-immigrant sentiment due to the World Trade Center bombing (February 1993) and the shooting outside CIA headquarters (January 1993). Furthermore, California was hit hard in the recent recession and an outpouring of anti-immigrant feeling was created in the West (culminated in the passing of Proposition 187 in 1994 –
prohibited illegal immigrants from using various public services in California, but later found unconstitutional).[2] In all, there was a lingering fear that America would be overrun by foreigners and terrorists.

With the embellishment by the media, Golden Venture became a metaphor for the failure of U.S. immigration policy. In combination with preceding events as well as the soon Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the government faced pressure to strengthen immigration policies, and in particular,
political asylum rights. Thus, the Golden Venture survivors quickly became a test case for harsh new policies. It was the starting point for a new era of restrictive measures: blanket detention, rushed hearings, and express-lane deportation of survivors to autocratic countries (i.e. China and Thailand) where torture and public execution were accepted. Many passengers were locked up without amnesty rights in INS-contracted county jails outside New York.

Furthermore, the government passed various laws to strengthen and reform immigration policies. One of the most important laws passed was the 1996 Immigration Acts, which included the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. The former made deportation mandatory for all legal permanent residents sentenced to a year or more for “aggravated felonies,” or “moral turpitude”. This act, along with the latter, made deportation of legal non-residents faster and more frequent by becoming stricter on minor criminal offenses. Other acts, such as the Personal Responsibility/Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act and the Human Rights Restoration Act of 1996, also limited immigrant rights and benefits.[3]

In 1997, President Clinton, in response to political oppositions, pardoned 53 jailed Golden VentureGolden Venture passengers live in the U.S. Many of them are trapped in stateless limbo and are isolated from their families. While technically “legal”, they are still subject to sudden deportation. survivors. However, he did not grant them legal status. Today, about 220

- Grayson Maldonado and Dalue (Roy) Song

[1] Pringle, P. (1993, June 7). The Independent. Retrieved December 4, 2009, from Immigrants Die In Shipwreck:

[2] Espiritu, Y. L. (2003). Homes, Borders, and Possibilities. In Y. L. Espiritu, Homebound: Filipino American Lives Across Cultures, Communties, and Countries (pp. 206, 210). Berkeley: UC Press.

[3] Mills, N. (1999). Introduction: The Era of the Golden Venture. In Arguing Immigration: The Debate over the Changing Face of America (pp. 11-30). New York: Touchstone.

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