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Forgotten Contribution of Chinese Laborers in California’s Wine Country

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Women and Men in California during Gold Rush. Wikimedia
  • California Gold Rush caused the migration of Chinese
  • Contribution of Chinese workers in helping build Buena Vista Winery
  • Sonoma-Penglai Sister City Committee is raising funds to build a Chinese pavilion to honor their contribution

California, July 13, 2017: 

Role of California Gold Rush in Migration of Chinese

Discovery of Gold in 1848 by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in California sparked almost mass hysteria as it brought thousands of immigrants to the American west.  The New York Herald is said to be the first newspaper to confirm about the news of gold rush in California (on August 1, 1948). More than 300,000 people thronged from the United States and abroad seeking to strike it rich. The California Gold Rush also included the Chinese who stayed back even after the gold rush ended in 1855. The Chinese worked as unskilled labor mainly in construction of the railroads.

Contribution of Chinese workers in laying the foundation of Wine Industry

Very few people know that these Chinese workers played a vital role in laying the foundation for the famous California wine industry. People who visit by the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma County get surprised when they learn about the forgotten past of Chinese laborers. Founded in 1857 it is the first premium winery of California. The people who helped in building it came from far off places while some of them also traveled north of San Francisco to work in the infant vineyards.

“From the late 1850’s to the 1870’s, they primarily were Chinese laborers. They actually built our building and played a huge role in the founding of Buena Vista,” said Tom Blackwood, general manager of Buena Vista Winery.

“They did all of the work of the fields, the plowing. The actual digging, planting and then the management of all the vineyards,” said Blackwood. “They definitely worked at the other properties, but Buena Vista was known to have the largest Chinese labor camp north of San Francisco.”

The Chinese laborers also dug the cave at Buena Vista Winery for the purpose of storing wines so they could age. But what still remains there, are the pick marks on the walls of the cave. The rocks which were dug from the cave were used as building blocks for the wine-making facilities at that time, and of those original buildings, two of them still remain to this date.

“A couple of my friends showed me, the so-called ‘Chinese rock fence,’” said Chinese American Jack Ding, pointing to a low fence made of rocks at the side of a busy road. “Local people, they still remember Chinese laborers did something for them.” “They worked here, lived here and most of them died here. They didn’t have a place to be buried,” said Ding to VOA.

 

Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma County, California. Wikimedia

Story of Chinese Laborers still a mystery

Stories of the Chinese laborers passed down by word of mouth among the locals. Historians knew about them, but what happened to them isn’t certain. Immigrants from China experienced violent anti-Chinese sentiment, boycotts, and in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act, restricted their immigration into the United States.

“We don’t understand where they went after they left the city of Sonoma. We don’t know a whole lot of names,” said former Sonoma city historian George McKale.

“This was sort of the forgotten history of Sonoma. We had sort of a shameful history regarding the Ancient Exclusion Act and people want to make things right,” said resident David Katz.

Wine Country Chinese Legacy Project, an effort to honor their contributions

To honor these nameless laborers, the Sonoma-Penglai Sister City Committee is raising money to build a Chinese pavilion, in the city of Sonoma. Katz and Ding who are the members of this Committee said that it would also be a piece of history for the new Chinese who are here. While the project aims to raise a total of $75,000, the Chinese sister city of Penglai has pledged $25,000 for building the outdoor structure, thus it will be called the Penglai Pavilion.

“We can see a lot of investors from China. They purchase wineries. They purchase properties. That is the reason why we want to build this kind of physical structure, to remind the people, remind them of the history, who we are and where we came from.”

The pavilion would help in educating the new generations of Chinese who visit the wine country learn about the history of their fellow citizens, said Ding.

– by Sabnam Mangla of NewsGram, Twitter: @sabnam_mangla


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Trump Sends Undocumented Migrants to Sanctuary Cities

Democrats must change the Immigration Laws FAST. If not, Sanctuary Cities must immediately ACT to take care of the Illegal Immigrants

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sanctuary city, migrants
Trump Sends Mixed Signals on Migrant Crisis at US-Mexico Border. VOA

The White House on Sunday, echoing President Donald Trump, said sending undocumented migrants to sanctuary U.S. cities that have protected them from deportation remains a possibility even though government agencies have said it would be impractical and there is no money allocated to do it.

“We certainly are looking at all options as long as [opposition] Democrats refuse to acknowledge the crisis at the border,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told the “Fox News Sunday” show.

Trump said late Saturday on Twitter, “Democrats must change the Immigration Laws FAST. If not, Sanctuary Cities must immediately ACT to take care of the Illegal Immigrants – and this includes Gang Members, Drug Dealers, Human Traffickers, and Criminals of all shapes, sizes and kinds. CHANGE THE LAWS NOW!”

Hundreds of U.S. cities, along with California, the country’s most populous state, have declared themselves as havens for migrants who have illegally crossed the southern U.S. border with Mexico, refusing the help U.S. immigration officials to track down the immigrants so they can be deported.

U.S. border authorities apprehended more than 100,000 undocumented migrants, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, at the border in March, nearly twice that in the same month in 2018.

 

“The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities,” Trump said. “We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known (for) its poor management & high taxes!”

The U.S. now houses thousands of migrants at the border, but is running out of beds and instead is releasing new arrivals into the U.S. on their promise to appear at asylum hearings that might not occur for two years.

The Department of Homeland Security has said that Congress has not appropriated any money to transport the migrants from the border to far-flung sanctuary cities across the U.S., while the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency has called it an “unnecessary operational burden.”

Sanders said, “Nobody thinks this is the ideal solution,” sending migrants to sanctuary cities. But she said mayors of cities “who want this… should be looking to help” Trump resolve the crisis at the border. She accused Congress of wanting to spend “all of its time investigating the president” rather than dealing with the immigration turmoil at the border.

Trump tweeted, “So interesting to see the Mayor of Oakland and other Sanctuary Cities NOT WANT our currently ‘detained immigrants’ after release due to the ridiculous court ordered 20 day rule. If they don’t want to serve our Nation by taking care of them, why should other cities & towns?”

 

sanctuary cities
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., arrives at the Capitol on the morning after House and Senate negotiators worked out a border security compromise hoping to avoid another government shutdown, in Washington, Feb. 12, 2019. VOA

Trump was referring to a court ruling prohibiting the U.S. from detaining migrant minors, those under 18 years old, for more than 20 days, before being required to release them to relatives in the U.S. or other care givers.

A key Republican lawmaker, Sen. Lindsey Graham, told another Fox News show, “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo,” that after the current two-week congressional recess ends, he would introduce legislation that would authorize the detention of children beyond 20 days, “toughen up our asylum standards,” and allow migrant children to be returned to Central American countries, which is not now allowed once they have entered the United States.

ALSO READ: Mueller Report Release on 2016 US Presidential Elections Appears Imminent

“We’re never going to change this with troops and walls at the border,” Graham said of the U.S. immigration crisis. “Doing what we’re doing is not working.”

He added, “If you get one foot into the United States,” migrants can seek asylum. “The word is out that if you come with a minor, you’re never going to get deported. We need to change that narrative. We need troops at the border. We need a law. But these [U.S.] laws are insane.” (VOA)