Monday, April 30, 2012

80 Years of Exclusion

Chinese emigres aboard ship, from Harper's Weekly, 1876
From 1882 to 1965, only diplomats, merchants, and students and their dependents (such as Shaketown's Wo Sam and Wo Li) were allowed to travel to the United States. The Chinese Exclusion Act greatly reduced the numbers of Chinese allowed into the country and the city, and in theory limited Chinese immigration to single males only. Exceptions were in fact granted to the families of wealthy merchants (hence the inflow of "wives" and "sisters", brought in for the purpose of prostitution), but the law was still effective enough to reduce the population. All Chinese were confined to rigidly defined areas ("Chinatowns") in major cities across the country. Chinese were deprived of their democratic rights: By congressional and judicial decisions, Chinese immigrants were made ineligible for naturalization. The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, particularly the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 brought in a new period in Chinese American immigration. In 2009, the California Legislature passed a Bill, apologizing to Chinese Americans for the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and other unjust discriminatory laws that resulted in the persecution of Chinese living in California.

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