Essay Example on 1882 Exclusion Act: Ending Chinese Immigration in US

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1783 Words
Date:  2023-03-02


The Chinese Exclusion Act was a law signed by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882. The act was used to forbid the immigration of Chinese workers. It was the first major law in the history of the United States that limit immigrations. Following the explosion of the California Gold Rush from 1848 to 1855, the United States was experiencing a time of unavoidable economic decline. It was not easy for people to secure good jobs to sustain their families. The native citizens of America were well conversant with the existing labor laws, as well as the suitable pay that was deemed to be standard. At that time, a good number of Chinese refugees were working in the United States to cater for themselves with their earnings and send the remaining back home.

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Chinese immigrants were ready to work longer hours for less pay, and this made them attractive to most employers. The situation angered the American citizens because they felt that the Chinese were holding up their jobs by offering cheap labor. To solve this, they created the Chinese Exclusion Act that could stop the migration of Chinese into the United States. In American immigration policy, this limitation of Chinese immigration, through the Chinese Exclusion Act, was a dark time in the United States, characterized by political pressures.

The course

The affluent of the California Gold Rush lasted for more than five years. During this time, the United States' economy was down. When the gold rush came to an end, the construction of the railroad was nearly complete, and the number of Chinese laborers in California, as well as other western regions, had greatly increased. For the Americans who had moved west, they discovered that there were no more economic opportunities for them. In the 1870s, a stock market crash led to a national downturn, worsening the condition. During this period, Chinese immigrants tolerated the anxiety and anger that several Americans felt.

There were several forms taken by anti-Chinese sentiment. When workers organized the strikes, they presumed that Chinese laborers were not ready to participate. This was, however, only true to some of them. Also, Chinese commercial sex workers were charged with deliberately contaminating the country. Chinese men were, on the other hand, charged with the crime of defying the traditional gender roles by undertaking work that comprised cleaning and cooking ((Lee).

Provocation and anti-Chinese decrees prevailed in California. Chinese boardinghouse owners were penalized for intruding upon open space minimums, unlike the white boardinghouse owners who were not penalized. To carry a pole horizontally with baskets hanging from the two ends, which was Chinese immigrants' common way of transporting their goods, was forbidden. The laws also targeted Chinese laundry owners. In Chinese culture, short hair was a mark of lower-class status or treachery. However, in a situation where Chinese prisoners declined paying due to discriminatory measures, their hairs were cut virtually to the scalp (Lee). Even though California officials were conversant with this cultural meaning, they used it in embarrassing and disgracing the Chinese.

Since California had high populations of immigrants, it started to press Congress to do something concerning this situation. In particular, the public was targeting to demonize Chinese immigrants. The Chinese settled in their towns, similar to the majority of the immigration populations, and the towns were referred to as 'Chinatowns.' The towns were believed to be places where Chinese men went to engage in prostitution, wager, and smoke opium. At that time, these Chinese settlements were mainly referred to as the moral slums of America. This was, however, total lies, but the perception of the majority of Americans. Prevalent newspapers such as "The Chronicle" referred to the Chinese workers as cruel murderers and heathens (Kil 663-677). With time, this distaste for the Chinese only grew more and more, with more pressure from the West put on Congress to act concerning the rising immigration rates.

Between the 1850s- and the 1870s, the Californian government passed a series of laws that targeted the Chinese immigrants, which ranged from presenting necessities for Chinese businesses' special licenses to naturalization prevention ("Milestones: 1866-1898 - Office Of The Historian"). The government did not adopt these laws because an anti-immigration act was going to infringe on the agreement between China and the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868. Nationwide, Chinese immigration was still legalized, unlike California, which was restricted. Immigration activists had been successful in attaining preventive policy before Congress by 1879. The number of Chinese was restricted to fifteen for every vessel in 1879 to reduce the flow of immigrants. A new treaty was discussed with China in 1880, referred to as the Angell Treaty, which allowed the United States to restrict, though not forbid, Chinese immigration("Milestones: 1866-1898 - Office Of The Historian" ).

The Congress in 1882 passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which, according to the Angell Treaty, did not constrain immigration completely. For ten years, the skilled or unskilled Chinese laborers were not included. The Act did not suspend the immigration of merchants, scholars, and diplomats. Besides, the Act called for every Chinese person who travels out of or into the country to have a certificate that identifies their status as a scholar, merchant, laborer, or diplomat ("Milestones: 1866-1898 - Office Of The Historian"). For the West, this was a triumph that had been advocated for many years. In the form of the Geary Act, Congress in 1892 voted to renew the Chinese Exclusion Act for another ten years. The Geary Act included more liabilities to the Chinese Immigrants, demanding that they should have residence certificates (Immigration to the United States). Failure to have these certificates, they were to be deported. The Chinese Exclusion Act was indefinitely extended in 1902 and remained in place until 1943 when it was annulled when China became a collaborator with the United States in the Second World War.

Impacts of the Chinese Exclusion Act

American culture and immigration were greatly affected by the Chinese Exclusion Act. All over the country, the surviving Chinese immigrants were the subjects of racial discrimination and ridicule, and this was rampant along the West Coast. In this form of paper, sons, daughters, and immigrants would attempt moving to America with an excuse of being the daughter or son of a present resident of the United States (Yesley). These Chinese immigrants were able to come into the United States by appealing that their families were already United States residents.

After a successful implementation of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Angel Island became a prominent station for immigrants. Angel Island in Francisco operated as the major station for processing immigrants on the West Coast. Apart from Angel Island serving as a location of processing immigrants, it was as well a site where the Chinese were subjected to prolonged detention, cruel interrogations as well as offensive medical testing (Yelsey). This Island acted as a where the fates of Chinese immigrants were going to be determined. For several hours, inspectors would interrogate the immigrants as they cross-check their responses against the preceding ones that were given by fellow refugees and relatives. In a situation where the inspector felt that the responses were not good enough, he would not permit entry to the immigrant.

As much as the Chinese immigrants went through hardships to gain entry into the United States, they did not give up. Through community organization and political lobbying, the Chinese persistently pleaded for their right to become equal citizens (Yelsey). As a result of complicated alliances and the terror of war in 1943, the Chinese were once more permitted to immigrate to the United States. The rationale behind this was that the Americans and the Chinese were allies in the course of the Second World War. Regrettably, the racial discrimination did not end, and up to date, it is still a concern. The Chinese Exclusion Act also led to the rigidity of other races in the United States. The problems brought by the rigidity lasted for more than 30 years, and during this period, the American economy declined (Tian). In the process, there was an economic downfall in America as a result of enacting this act. The majority of the individual referred to this act as a sign of injustice to Chinese laborers because it subjects them to manual jobs.

Replication of the Chinese Exclusion Act in modern-day

In the modern-day immigration policy, comparable subjects in the Chinese Exclusion Act can be witnessed. Immigration departments still apply similar methods to address immigration-related problems even after a century and a half. President Trump demonstrated that similar ideas of exclusion still exist by implementing a travel ban on some Muslim majority countries. By keeping particular people seen as unwanted out of the country, the United States will still be forfeiting co-existence with the affected people. Whispers of Hispanic immigrants allegedly stealing jobs from Americans are currently rampant. Americans have successfully built a theory that most immigrants illegally come into the US via Mexico. The only difference is that Hispanic immigrants are targeted now; similar fate faced the Chinese in the early 1880s.

Trump's administration has also vowed to erect a "wall" to detach illegal immigration to the US through the Mexican border, thus fostering the theme of exclusion. However, Mexican immigrants will break through even the strongest and highest of walls, just like the Chinese made use of "paper" sons and daughters. To many countries, America is perceived to be the land full of opportunities for many reasons. Immigrants from the Middle go to the US to seek religious freedom, while Japanese entrepreneurs go for better business opportunities. America is a country with unlimited opportunities, a dream for every individual. Even in the face of the immigration policy passed, people keep on finding their way onto the land.

The Chinese Exclusion Act targeted one race and was the first major act limiting immigration to the United States. The Chinese were singled out as the only source of economic crisis, although they were constructing the railroads that will be utilized by Americans. For about two centuries, Americans have had a similar political dilemma about the immigrants, whether or not to implement similar types of policies to solve their problems.

Works Cited

Kil, Sang Hea. "Fearing yellow, imagining white: Media analysis of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882." Social Identities 18.6 (2012): 663-677.

Tian, Kelly. "The Chinese Exclusion Act Of 1882 And Its Impact On North American Society". Kon.Org, 2010,

Lee, Erika. "'The Chinese Must Go!'". Reason.Com, 2016,

"Milestones: 1866-1898 - Office Of The Historian". History.State.Gov, 2019,

Yelsey, Ross. "The Chinese Exclusion Act Raised The Price Of Becoming An American." National Endowment For The Humanities (NEH), 2016,

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Essay Example on 1882 Exclusion Act: Ending Chinese Immigration in US. (2023, Mar 02). Retrieved from

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