Wednesday, June 17, 2015

May 6: Chinese Exclusion Act

On this date in History ... May 6, 1882: 

President Arthur signed and approved the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first significant law restricting immigration, that one senator called “the legalization of racial discrimination.” For the first time, Federal law denied entry of an ethnic working group on the premise that it “endangered the good order of certain localities.” It was an absolute ten-year freeze or moratorium for labor immigration from China.  

While only intended to last ten years, the law was intended to last only 10 years, but wasn’t repealed until 1943. The first major Chinese immigration was during the California gold rush that started in 1848. The Chinese population was “tolerated” as long as the gold was plentiful, but when the gold started running low, animosity toward “the foreigners” rose. The Chinese immigrants moved to larger cities, such as San Francisco, and took low paying jobs such as laundry and restaurant work where they were soon blamed for depressed wage levels.  

Chinese who were already in America when this bill passed now had additional requirements.  If they left the country, they had to get new certification to get back in the country, something that was very difficult under the 1882 Act.  

By 1943, the anti-Chinese feeling in America was much subdued and Congress repealed all exclusion Acts, allowing 105 Chinese born immigrants per year and gave foreign-born Chinese who were in America the right to apply for naturalization.

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