Thank you for a very interesting question.
"Following the discovery of gold in California in 1848, tens of
thousands of Chinese coolies were brought to the western United States
as contract laborers, or emigrated as regular migrants, to work in the
mines and on the railroads and farms of the rapidly expanding frontier
society that required the services of large numbers of common
laborers. Chinese immigrant labor, totaling some 75,000 between 1854
and 1868, was largely employed on western transcontinental railroad
projects, but in at least one case some were even contracted to work
in a shoe factory in North Adams, Massachusetts. The majority of the
earliest Chinese immigrants were from the laboring classes, and nearly
all of them came from the six districts of Kwangtung Province, a
heavily-populated area encompassing the coastal plain of southeastern
China below the mouth of the Yangtze River.
At first, the Chinese were received with enthusiasm because labor was
in short supply, but soon American workers viewed them with hostility
as competitors. The fact that Chinese were satisfied with low wages,
and were willing to perform menial jobs, invariably put the white
laborers at a disadvantage. Despite growing anti-Chinese sentiment on
the Pacific coast where most of the Chinese immigrants had settled,
however, the United States negotiated the Burlingame Treaty with China
in 1868, giving the Chinese the right to emigrate to the United
States. In 1869, to mark the completion of the transcontinental
railroad link at Promontory Point, Utah, a golden spike was driven to
hold the last rail, and some 10,000 Chinese were thrown out of work
into a labor market that had become increasingly depressed a
development that would be exacerbated by the influx of some 160,000
Chinese laborers between 1868 and 1882. Because of the competition
with American labor, anti-Chinese agitation on the Pacific coast
intensified during the 1870s, among the most notable events being the
"Sandlot Riots" in July 1877 in San Francisco, the city having the
largest concentration of Chinese. As a result, President Rutherford B.
Hayes appointed a commission to negotiate a new treaty with China. The
result was the Treaty of November 17, 1880, permitting the United
States to "regulate, limit or suspend" but not prohibit the entry of
Throughout the 1870s the most outspoken opponents of unlimited Chinese
immigration were labor spokesmen, primarily for economic but also for
racial reasons. After the Supreme Court ruled in 1876 that the federal
government had responsibility for immigration regulation, western
leaders notably Denis Kearny, the demogogic leader of the new
California Workingmen's Party that thrived briefly on the basis of its
single issue: "The Chinese must go!" urged Congress to bar Chinese
and invoked boycotts, claiming that the Chinese immigrants undercut
the American wage structure. A Chinese Exclusion Act prohibiting the
immigration of Chinese for ten years was passed in 1882. Immediately
thereafter, anti-Chinese riots in rural districts drove the bulk of
the Asians already in California to shelter in urban ghettos such as
that in San Francisco, thus intensifying the potential for conflict
between them and other American workers. As a result of the lobbying
efforts of the Knights of Labor and other labor union groups, Congress
passed the Contract Labor Act in 1885 prohibiting the importation of
contract laborers into the United States. A new treaty with China in
1894 recognized a 10-year immigration exclusion period. Upon China's
termination of this agreement in 1904, an exclusion act was reenacted
without terminal date."
Introduction: Asian Americans and Educational History by Eileen H. Tamura
Asian American history can be divided roughly into four periods: from
1850 to 1940, a time of immigration restrictions and discrimination;
the World War II period that was dominated by the incarceration of
Japanese immigrants and their American children; from 1943 through the
1950s, when Congress loosened immigration and naturalization laws; and
the past three decades following the 1965 Immigration Act.
The first period began with the Chinese. Extreme poverty and warfare
in China caused many to look outside their native land for a better
life. The discovery of gold in California in the mid 1800s, followed
by work on the transcontinental railroads, provided incentives for
more than 300,000 Chinese to make the transoceanic journey. A smaller
number of Chinese also migrated to the kingdom of Hawai?i primarily to
work on the sugar plantations there.
A xenophobic reaction among whites on the United States West Coast led
to laws aimed at restricting further immigration, culminating in the
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited Chinese laborers from
entering the country for ten years. In 1892 Congress extended that
exclusion for another ten years, and in 1902 extended it indefinitely.
Because these laws prevented Chinese women from immigrating, the
Chinese population was predominantly male; as a result, the
American-born Chinese population during this time remained relatively
"As the foregoing indicates, this first period of Asian American
history, from about 1850 to 1940, was marked by immigration
restrictions and exclusion. During this time Asian immigrants and
their children worked in backbreaking, labor-intensive, and sometimes
dangerous jobs, including the building of the transcontinental
railroads, lumbering, fishing, farming, working in canneries and
factories, operating laundries and restaurants, and serving as
shopkeepers, carpenters, houseboys, maids, and gardeners. In
California, Chinese and Japanese farmers played a vital role in
boosting crop production, and in Hawai?i Asians provided most of the
labor on sugar plantations.
While their children were American citizens, having been born on
American soil, Asian immigrants were denied the right to become
naturalized American citizens. Furthermore, a series of land laws
prevented them from owning and leasing land. Despite discrimination,
xenophobia, and violence aimed at them, however, many of the Chinese,
Japanese, Koreans, Asian Indians, and Filipinos who migrated to the
United States during this period decided that they could improve their
lives and eventually chose to make America their home.
In 1940 there were 490,000 people of Asian ancestry in the United
States, which was less than 1 percent of the population in the
country. Most of them lived in Hawai?i and on the continental West
Coast, particularly in California. The Japanese were the most
numerous, followed by the Chinese. The three essays selected for this
special issue focus on the Japanese and Chinese during this first
period of Asian American history."
"The entry of the United States into World War II marked the second
period of Asian American history. During the war, 120,000 Nikkei
people of Japanese ancestry, immigrants and their citizen children
were forced to leave their homes on the West Coast to live in
government camps. Roger Daniels's essay review in this issue discusses
this period of incarceration.
During the war and in the decade that followed there was a gradual
loosening of restrictions. In recognition of China's role as an ally
of the United States, Congress passed the Magnuson Act in 1943, which
repealed the Chinese exclusion acts and opened the door for Chinese
immigrants to become naturalized American citizens. Furthermore
Congress allowed a small quota of 105 to immigrate annually. The War
Brides Act of 1945 and its amendments opened the door to thousands of
Chinese females. These and other liberalizing laws brought dramatic
changes in the demographic composition of the Chinese American
community. As with the Chinese, the War Brides Act and its amendments
permitted the migration of thousands of Japanese wives of United
States servicemen. Furthermore, the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act,
influenced in part by the heroism of Japanese American soldiers during
the war, allowed all Asians to become naturalized American citizens.
When Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1965, which opened the
door to those formerly excluded, its focus was on southern and eastern
Europe. Lawmakers gave little thought to Asia. To their later
surprise, however, because of a provision in the Act that allowed for
family reunification, millions of Asians responded. In 1960, for
example, only 9 percent of all immigrants were Asian, increasing to 25
percent in 1970, 53 percent in 1982, and 37 percent in 1992.21
Chinese, Koreans, Asian Indians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, and other
Southeast Asian groups arrived in unforeseen and unprecedented
numbers. An exception to this influx was Japan. As a result of its
prosperity in the 1970s and later, relatively few desired to leave
their country, and Japanese Americans, who constituted the largest of
the Asian American groups before 1970, saw its proportion shrink to
sixth place three decades later, after the Chinese, Filipinos, Asian
Indians, Koreans, and Vietnamese. By 2000 Asian Americans constituted
4 percent of the population, a proportion that is projected to
increase to 10 percent by 2050."
"The Chinese Exclusion Act was approved on May 6, 1882. It was the
first significant law restricting immigration into the United States."
"The Chinese Exclusion Act required the few nonlaborers who sought
entry to obtain certification from the Chinese government that they
were qualified to immigrate. But this group found it increasingly
difficult to prove that they were not laborers because the 1882 act
defined excludables as skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese
employed in mining. Thus very few Chinese could enter the country
under the 1882 law.
The 1882 exclusion act also placed new requirements on Chinese who had
already entered the country. If they left the United States, they had
to obtain certifications to re-enter. Congress, moreover, refused
State and Federal courts the right to grant citizenship to Chinese
resident aliens, although these courts could still deport them.
When the exclusion act expired in 1892, Congress extended it for 10
years in the form of the Geary Act. This extension, made permanent in
1902, added restrictions by requiring each Chinese resident to
register and obtain a certificate of residence. Without a certificate,
she or he faced deportation.
The Geary Act regulated Chinese immigration until the 1920s. With
increased postwar immigration, Congress adopted new means for
regulation: quotas and requirements pertaining to national origin. By
this time, anti-Chinese agitation had quieted. In 1943 Congress
repealed all the exclusion acts, leaving a yearly limit of 105 Chinese
and gave foreign-born Chinese the right to seek naturalization. The
so-called national origin system, with various modifications, lasted
until Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1965. Effective July 1,
1968, a limit of 170,000 immigrants from outside the Western
Hemisphere could enter the United States, with a maximum of 20,000
from any one country. Skill and the need for political asylum
House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary - Subcommittee on
Subcommittee Hearing on "H.R. 1909: The Civil Rights Act of 1997"
Testimony of Karen Narasaki - Exectuive Director, National Asian
Pacific American Legal Consortium
"The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited the immigration
of Chinese laborers, was among the first to epitomize this country's
racist immigration laws. Anti-Asian sentiment again arose in 1907,
culminating in the Gentleman's Agreement that limited Japanese
immigration. Asian immigration was further restricted by the
Immigration Act of 1917, which banned immigration from almost all
countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The Immigration Act of 1924
banned immigration of persons who were ineligible for citizenship,
which at that time only included Asians. In addition, the
Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 placed a quota of 50 Filipino immigrants
per year. The last of these exclusionary laws was not repealed until
In 1790, the United' States of America passed a law allowing only
"free white persons" to become citizens. Even after the 1790 law was
changed to include African Americans, similar legislation to include
Asian Americans was rejected. The Supreme Court upheld these laws
making Asian immigrants ineligible for citizenship and naturalization.
The last of these laws was not repealed until 1952, allowing
citizenship status to be used as a pretext for discrimination against
Asian Pacific Americans.
2. Federal and state government imposed discriminatory laws against
Asian Pacific Americans.
Asian immigrants who did manage to enter the U.S. became the victims
of other forms of discrimination. As early as the 1850s, states
enacted various laws that inherently targeted Asians by taking
advantage of the discriminatory nature of naturalization laws.
California imposed a "foreign miner's tax" on any non-citizen miner.
As intended, virtually all of the $1.5 million collected under the
"foreign miner's tax" came from Chinese miners. In the same vein, in
1922, the Supreme Court upheld a law that prohibited aliens who were
ineligible for citizenship from forming corporations. In 1945,
California enacted legislation denying commercial fishing licenses to
persons ineligible for citizenship. At that time, Asians were the only
racial group ineligible for citizenship.
Other laws were blatantly discriminatory. In 1862, California levied a
tax against only Chinese residents of the state. California also
enacted laws prohibiting California corporations and governmental
entities from hiring any Chinese employees. San Francisco also enacted
special taxes targeted at Chinese laundries and, between 1873 and
1884, fourteen regulations targeting Chinese laundries alone. In a
similar vein, San Francisco passed the "Cubic Air Ordinance,"
requiring that living spaces have at least 500 cubic feet of space per
person, which was enforced only in Chinatown.
The California Alien Land Law Act of 1913 was another striking example
of discriminatory laws aimed at preventing Asian Pacific Americans
from realizing the American dream. This law, primarily aimed at
Japanese immigrant farmers, prohibited persons ineligible for
citizenship from purchasing land. In 1920, the law was amended to bar
long-term leases and land purchases through American-born children. In
1923, California again amended the law to prohibit non-citizens from
entering into contracts to grow and harvest crops. Twelve other states
adopted similar laws, the last being Utah, Arkansas and Wyoming in the
1940s. Upheld as constitutional, the last law was not repealed until
During World War II, the government moved over 110,000 Japanese
Americans, mostly living in California, from their homes and
incarcerated them without due process in internment camps solely based
on their race. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Japanese American
internment based on what subsequently proved to be doctored evidence
of the purported "wartime necessity" argued by the government.
More recently, in California in 1988, the Coast Guard began enforcing
a long-abandoned statute, which restricted aliens from operating
commercial fishing vessels, solely against Vietnamese immigrants.
3. Asian Pacific Americans have faced racial hurdles in education.
Like African Americans, Asian Pacific Americans were segregated in
this country's public school system. In 1860, California barred Asian
Pacific Americans and other minorities from attending its public
schools entirely. After the California Supreme Court ruled in 1884
that this action was unconstitutional, the State set up a system of
"oriental" schools, beginning with one in San Francisco's Chinatown in
In 1902, the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of
"separate but equal" schools for Asian Pacific American students. San
Francisco's Board of Education catered to anti-Asian sentiments in
1906 by trying to segregate Japanese children into the Oriental
School, but abandoned their plan after the Japanese government's
protest and President Roosevelt's intervention. In 1927, the U.S.
Supreme Court upheld Mississippi's exclusion of Asian American
students (as persons of "Mongolian" race) from white schools, as long
as separate facilities were provided for them. Thus, Asian Pacific
American children in many parts of the U.S. had to attend segregated
schools up until World War II. Even after World War II, racial
exclusion covenants in real property developments kept Asian Pacific
Americans segregated in inferior schools.
Schools also failed to address the linguistic needs of Asian immigrant
students. In the early 1970s, frustrated Chinese American parents
brought a class action suit against the San Francisco Unified School
District, alleging that unequal educational opportunities resulted
from the District's failure to establish a program to address the
limited English proficiency of students of Asian ancestry. In Lau v.
Nichols, the Supreme Court ruled that the District's failure to
provide such English-language instruction was "a mockery of public
education" and violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because English
proficiency was required for graduation. In effect, the District had
denied the students a meaningful and equal educational opportunity.
These past discriminatory laws in conjunction with current
discrimination have served to prevent Asian Pacific Americans from
having equal opportunities to compete and succeed in most aspects of
society. H.R. 1909 would be yet another law imposed to hinder the
progress and full integration of minorities into all aspects of
An effect of the Act on the United States can be found at:
Journey of a Picture Bride - Japanese Immigration to the United States
"There were two main reasons for the large increase in numbers of
Japanese immigrants. First, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act stopped
immigration from China to the United States, resulting in a labor
shortage in the western part of the United States. There was an
increased demand for Japanese immigrants who would work as farm
More on the impact at Chinese American Citizens Alliance:
"...focused on the negative impact of the Exclusion Act, as well as
our progress since its repeal. The Exclusion Act deliberately
separated families by restricting immigration of wives, creating "a
bachelor society" in Chinatowns. The law and subsequent laws created a
barrier to economic progress and political empowerment. Segregation,
prejudice, and hatred were results of federal and state policies."
Linnea's Report on Chinese Immigration
"The Chinese Exclusion Act was an important part of Chinese
Immigration History. The Chinese Exclusion Act was made May 6, 1882.
The Chinese Exclusion Act stopped the Chinese from entering the
U.S.A.. It lasted for 60 years (it was only supposed to last 10
years). The Scott Act said that Chinese visiting China couldn't come
back into the U.S.A.. In 1887 only 10 Chinese were allowed to enter
the U.S.A. Because of the War Brides Act passed December 1943 the
Chinese Exclusion Act was finally ended. The Chinese Exclusion Act had
a big impact on Chinese Americans."
SEPARATE LIVES, BROKEN DREAMS - Saga of Chinese Immigration
"The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was a turning point in American
history. It is, however, one which seldom receives anything more than
a passing reference in most history books. The Act barred all Chinese
from U.S. citizenship by naturalization, and specifically excluded
Chinese laborers and their families from entering the United States.
Immigration, based on race and class, was now an official part of
American public policy. It opened the door to subsequent racially
biased restrictions and outright exclusion of other immigrant groups.
SEPARATE LIVES, BROKEN DREAMS explores the deep and broad impact that
Chinese Exclusion had on individual lives, families, and entire
communities in America and China. As fears regarding America's economy
and security ebb and flow through our national consciousness, public
sentiment and politicians focus once again on new and existing
immigrants. One hundred twenty years after the passage of the Chinese
Exclusion Act, America continues to grapple with both its image and
the stark reality of all that is encompassed by its descriptor, "the
land of immigrants."
CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT An Overview
Beginning in the mid-19th century, Chinese immigration to America was
influenced by both the "pull" of California's Gold Rush and the "push"
created by China's impoverished conditions. Years of drought, floods,
disease, and famine ravaged China, a country already burdened with
over-population and internal instability. European and American
exploits into the region further exacerbated China's economic,
political, and social problems.
Chinese peasants, particularly in the rural Pearl River Delta area in
the southeastern province of Guangdong, were desperate for relief.
They began to migrate to urban centers in search of employment and
survival. When this proved insufficient, the Chinese migrated to
Southeast Asia and the Pacific Region (e.g. Thailand, Singapore,
Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines). Word soon reached China
that "Gum Saan," the "Gold Mountain" as the Chinese referred to
America, was a land of opportunity for those seeking a better life."
"Long-held racial, cultural, and religious prejudices were unleashed
on the so-called "heathen Chinee." Inclined to maintain the customs,
rituals, beliefs, and lifestyle of their homeland, the Chinese were
accused of being unable or unwilling to assimilate into American
society. Public sentiment and organized labor began to advocate for
restrictions on the activities of Chinese and changes in the
immigration laws. In response, politicians eventually passed over 600
ordinances and laws against Asians throughout the United States. They
ranged from local ordinances intent on petty harassment, to extremely
mean-spirited and harmful state laws aimed at the very livelihood and
civil rights of Chinese in America. Anti-Chinese sentiment escalated
into violence, whereby Chinese residents and laborers were forcibly
evicted from towns and work camps. In some cases, the Chinese were
attacked and killed.
However, the Chinese community in America did not tolerate
discrimination and abuse without protest. They organized and raised
funds to hire expert legal representation to challenge the system in
local, state, and Supreme Courts. Far from being passive victims, the
Chinese in America won many precedent-setting cases, and in some
instances, even reparations for damages. As local ordinances and state
laws failed to curtail the activities and immigration of the Chinese,
the move to restrict and exclude Chinese immigrants moved to a
The Chinese Exclusion Act was finally passed by Congress in 1880, and
signed into law by President Arthur on May 5, 1882. It suspended the
immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years. In 1892, and again in
1902, it was extended for additional ten-year periods each. In 1904,
the act was amended to run perpetually. For the first time in American
history, immigration into the United States was denied on the basis of
race and class. Chinese now joined the ranks of imbeciles, paupers,
prostitutes, and felons as official "undesirables."
To maintain important trade relations with China, select
classifications of Chinese were still permitted to enter the United
States. Specifically, the Chinese allowed into the United States were
travelers, merchants, diplomats (including their families and
servants), students, and teachers. Numerous amendments later attempted
to clarify certain provisions, close loopholes, and strengthen the
overall restrictions introduced by the Act. Though subsequent
legislation provided for the entry of the wives and families of
Chinese merchants, it was clear that new Chinese immigrants of the
laboring class and their family members would no longer be allowed in
the United States."
LIFE UNDER CHINESE EXCLUSION
"All Chinese immigrants entering the country were now scrutinized
under the severe restrictions of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Port
of San Francisco received the greatest number of Chinese. In the
beginning, the Chinese were detained in a two-story, wooden warehouse
operated by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company (an overseas
transportation firm). Located on the San Francisco waterfront, this
makeshift detention "shed" was considered an over-crowded "fire trap."
Reports of lax security, and improper ventilation and sanitation led
to the construction of new detention facilities on Angel Island.
Though fraught with many of the same inadequacies, Angel Island
Immigration Station eventually received tens of thousands of Chinese
during the Exclusion period from 1910 to 1940. Entering Europeans,
Japanese "picture brides" (destined to marry their prospective
husbands by proxy in America), and other immigrants not subject to
Chinese Exclusion were allowed to either land immediately..."
"The Chinese considered American Exclusion grossly unjust and
discriminatory. Boycotts of American goods were organized in large
Chinese communities as far away as the Philippines. Chinese diplomats
in Hong Kong and community organizations in America would submit
letters complaining about degrading practices and mistreatment by
immigration officials. Many Chinese laborers and their family members
resorted to methods for circumventing the Act. They would smuggle
themselves across the border or purchase identity documents falsely
claiming to be an individual of an exempt classification (e.g., a
merchant or child of a merchant, or a U.S. citizen or child of a U.S.
citizen). The creation of "border patrols," and indeed, the evolution
of some of America's largest bureaucracies (the U.S. Customs
Department, and Immigration and Naturalization Service, i.e., the
I.N.S.) directly stems from much of the enforcement practices required
by Chinese Exclusion.
Desperate attempts to enter America under Exclusion often involved the
cooperation and assistance of different members of the Chinese
community, as well as those in the white community. Chinese community
organizations and import/export companies provided transportation,
housing, exchange of important correspondence, and other means of
support. Friendly members of the White community would sometimes bear
both true and sometimes false "witness" to a person's residency or
status as a merchant. Corrupt immigration officers could be involved
in bribery schemes whereby false birth certificates would be issued or
testimony documents changed. There were cases where such officials
would be discovered and ousted from government service, only to find
employment with some of the most prominent immigration attorneys in
"Immigrants entering under false identities were often the
able-bodied, male members of a family who were considered best suited
to find employment in the United States. These male immigrants with
false identity documents were commonly referred to as "paper sons."
The Chinatowns of America have often been described as "Bachelor
Societies," devoid of women and children. However, in reality, many
Chinese men in America during the Exclusion era actually had wives and
children residing in China.
Left behind in China, the wives of Chinese immigrants in the United
States were referred to as "grass widows" or "living widows." Though
they were married and assumed all the obligations of a wife, these
women often led solitary lives separated from their husbands for years
and even decades at a time. As a result, the normal formation of
family life and community development both in the rural villages of
China and the early Chinatowns of America suffered."
"Later provisions permitted alien Chinese wives and minor children of
domiciled alien merchants to enter outside of these harsh quotas.
There was also the War Brides Act, which permitted Chinese (among
others) serving in the U.S. armed forces to bring their wives.
However, the real key to reversing immigration restrictions and
allowing for meaningful family reunification did not occur until the
Kennedy and Johnson administrations finally abolished ethnic quotas
with the 1965 Immigration Act. A painful and epic period in U.S.
history finally came to an end."
Immigration Laws 1800-1900
"The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first piece of legislation
that targeted a specific ethnic group. The Chinese were prohibited
from immigrating to the United States for the next ten years and it
further denied them the right to citizenship. This racial policy of
exclusion lasted until 1952. The effect of the 1882 Act was to stop
all new Chinese immigrant labor for the next 10 years. Chinese
laborers already here were allowed to leave and then re-enter provided
they showed that they had a certificate of eligibility. Those who were
not eligible were deported.
Later legislation, the Act of July 5, 1884 amended the earlier act of
May 6, 1882. This act extended the prohibition against Chinese
immigrants for another ten years and denied access to all Chinese
except government officials. Altogether, Chinese immigrants were
denied entry to the United States for the next twenty years.
The first general federal immigration law was a further reaction
against the new immigrant groups - Southern and Eastern Europeans
(Italians, Slavs, Poles, Russians) pouring into the United States for
the first time. The federal law was a compromise with state and local
authorities who had been forced to deal with the great influx of
immigrants. Port of entry states faced economic hardships when
indigent, poor, and sick immigrants landed at their doors. States
governments had been forced to pay for these immigrants by providing
medical care and housing for the new arrivals. The economic burden on
the State?s treasury was greatly resented. The Eastern state
governments wanted the federal government to provide economic support
to ease the financial burdens of immigration.
The federal government responded by passing the Immigration Act of
1882. The law, for the first time, imposed a 50 cent head tax on all
immigrants that entered the United States. The collected moneys were
used to pay inspectors who were responsible for determining who would
and would not be allowed to enter the United States. The law excluded
specific immigrants groups who were identified as convicts, lunatics,
and anyone that was unable to provide for themselves and thereby
become a dependent to the state government. The Immigration Act of
1882 ended the period of federal inaction toward immigration and took
control over the issue.
The Alien Contract Labor Law of February 26, 1885 (23 Stat. 332)
restricted immigration even further. Congress learned that, since
1869, employers had been running advertisements in foreign newspapers
describing great wages and employment opportunities in the United
States. Immigrants, attracted by the promise of jobs and high wages,
arrived in the United States to find few jobs and low wages. The
surplus labor, however, had the tendency to push down wages for
domestic laborers. Domestic laborers were particularly upset with
industrialists who frequently brought in immigrants to break strikes
and to keep wages low. (Higham 1956, 218) The Knights of Labor urged
Congress to deal with the situation by restricting contract labor. The
rising surplus labor supply coupled with an severe economic depression
of 1883-1886 led Washington to regulate further the flow of immigrants
into the United States. The legislation passed in the Alien Contract
Labor Law was designed to make it illegal to import "aliens or to
assist in the ir importation or migration into the United States under
any contract made prior to the importation or migration for the
performance of labor or service of any kind." (Bennett 1963, 18)
Exceptions to the law included professional actors, singers, artists,
lec turers, and relatives and personal friends already residing in the
The Chinese Exclusion Act and the Alien Contract Labor Law, however,
did not prevent European immigration from increasing during the 1880s
and into the early 1890s. New calls for restricting immigrants were
heard during the late 1880s and early 1890s. Unlike earlier times, the
immigrants came not from Northern Europe but from Southern and Eastern
Europe - Italians and Slavs were increasing in numbers.
In 1888, congressional hearings were held and later published as the
Ford Committee Report. The report concluded that undesirable
immigrants (anarchists, convicts, and the poor) were coming into the
United States unheeded. Congressmen declared that it was time to slow
down unrestricted immigration and to protect American workingmen from
the ill effects of cheap immigrant labor. The Federal Census also
reported in 1890 that because of the flow of unrestricted immigration,
the vast open lands of the United States, the frontier, had
disappeared. Responding to this news, alarmed political and social
leaders encouraged Congress to deal with the situation with the
passage of the Immigration Act of 1891. Later all three major
political parties, the Republicans, Democrats, and the Populists, all
adopted platforms that endorsed further immigration restrictions.
The Immigration Act of 1891 added to the list of those who were denied
entry into the United States - paupers, idiots, and the insane, as
well as diseased persons, convicts, polygamists, and those whose
passage had been paid by another. In addition, the authority of the
Immigration Bureau was increased at the expense of the state boards.
The Immigration Bureau now had jurisdiction over medical examinations
and inspections of immigrants. The immigration officers determined who
could and who could not enter the United States. Their decisions were
final, subject to administrative appeals."
"There had always been a great deal of prejudice towards the
Chinese-Americans but after the completion of the Transcontinental
railroad it only became worse. This prejudice came to a crescendo in
the form of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which suspended
immigration for ten years. Over the next decade it was passed again
and eventually the Act was renewed indefinitely in 1902, thus
suspending Chinese immigration. Further, California enacted numerous
discriminatory laws including special taxes and segregation.
Praise for the Chinese-Americans is long overdue. The government over
the last couple of decades is beginning to recognize the significant
achievements of this important segment of America. The
Chinese-Americans helped to fulfill the dream of a nation and were
integral in the improvement of America."
Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigrants and Immigration Policy Since 1882
"... was the starting point of the limits on immigration. From that
bill came further legal constraints on immigration based on race or
origin. Also from that law came a disruption of family life as Chinese
immigrants sought to work around the restrictions, faking papers and
their genealogy in order to come to this country. From that act came
efforts to restrict people based on their literacy or their ability to
Why do people migrate.doc
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
Chinese Exclusion Act 1882 detriment Chinese
Chinese Exclusion Act effects on United States
Chinese Exclusion Act impact on United States
Chinese Exclusion Act impact on Chinese populations