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Chinese Exclusion and the Roots of National Immigration Restriction Political Science 61 / Chicano/Latino Studies 64 October 18, 2007
Models of Minority Exclusion • Apartheid • An official policy of racial segregation, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites • Economic and political disempowerment • Taking away what has already been exercised • Two-tiered pluralism • Pluralism—A condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups compete within a society • Two-tiered pluralism—Ongoing competition, but access to some opportunities/resources unavailable to certain groups
Today’s Stories • Targeted restriction focused on one immigrant/ethnic group serves as a foundation for a much more broadly based restriction targeting many/all populations • State/regional interests can shape national immigration policy when the nation’s electorate is evenly divided and one of the states with new immigrants is up for grabs
Roots of Asian Migrations to U.S. • Economic incorporation of the Western United States and chronic labor shortage • Asian migration responds to economic opportunities and economic needs • California agriculture (1840s) • Gold rush (1848) • Hawaiian agriculture (1850s) • Western railroads (1865-1880s) • Scientific and technological workers (1940 - ) • Family migration (1965 - )
19th Century Asian Migration • Overwhelmingly, • Unskilled labor migration • Almost all from China • Geographically focused – Hawaii and Western U.S. • More “organized” than European migration • Cost and distance created entrepreneur middlemen • Popular notion of the “coolie” (contract labor), came to be understood as new form of slavery • Chinese immigrants entrepreneurial at settlement • Challenge economic opportunities of Whites • Come to dominate sectors of the economy – what would today be called the service sector
Political Apartheid and Economic Disempowerment • Statutory exclusion based on race • Naturalization (1790) • In re Ah Yup (1878) • Foreign Miners Tax (1850) • People v. Hall (1854) • Sustained economic segregation • “Chinatowns”
Restricted Opportunities Initially Balanced with Recruitment • Burlingame-Seward Treaty (1868) • China could not restrict the emigration of its nationals • Fit with national ethos of “open borders” – fear that other countries would restrict labor migration and slow U.S. economic development • Similar fear with Mexico in this era (that Mexico would restrict emigration)
Rapid Switch from Recruitment to Restriction • California seeks to restrict Chinese immigration • California prohibits • Chinese immigration (1858) • Chinese women destined for “prostitution” (1870) • Chinese living in city limits (1879) • Marriage licenses between whites and “Mongolians” (1879) • Local prejudices translate into national restrictions
Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) – Politics • Angell Treaty (1880) • U.S. could restrict immigration from China • Popular roots • Labor competition in California • Argument that Chinese labor is un-free, as slaves had been • Regional (California) racism made national • Organized labor turned against the Chinese • National politics shaped by a search for California’s electoral votes
Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) • Suspends Chinese labor immigration for 10 years • Continues to allow elite migration from China: those “proceeding to the United States … from curiosity” • Held to be Constitutional—Chae Chan Ping v. U.S. (1889) • Remains in place until 1940 when war-time imperatives allow for limited Chinese immigration • Chinese American residents of U.S. find ways to evade its restrictions
Expansion of Asian Exclusion (1880s-1940) • Chinese exclusion extended—1892, 1902, 1904 • 1892—Chinese in U.S. to register with government • End of Chinese immigration spurs labor recruitment in other parts of Asia • Exclusion spreads to rest of Asia • Koreans 1905 • Japan 1907 (“Gentleman’s Agreement”) • “Geographic Barred Zone” 1917 (includes India) • National Origin Quotas 1921 and 1924
Denial of Rights of Chinese/Asians in U.S. • Segregated schools in California & the West (1884-) • Progressive narrowing of eligibility for naturalization • Random violence against Asians/Chinatowns • Aliens “ineligible for citizenship” • California prohibitions on land ownership (1913) • Prohibition on stock ownership (1923) • Exception—Wong Kim Ark v. U.S. (1898), can not take citizenship away from those who have it
Apartheid at its Extreme • Japanese Internment/Executive Order 9066 (1942) • 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans • 62 percent U.S. citizens • Held to be constitutional – Korematsu v. United States (1944) • Internment also a form of political/economic disempowerment • Loss of land that had to be sold quickly
Asian Restriction as the Root of Broader Restrictions • Asian exclusion begins 40-year growth in exclusion • Exclusion of single women (using notion that they were destined for prostitution) • Exclusion based on belief • Exclusion based on health status • Exclusion based on knowledge • National Origin Quotas (1921 and 1924) • Attempt to freeze national ethnic composition in 1890 • All but Northern/Western Europeans face exclusion • Spurs demand for Latino, particularly Mexican American and Puerto Rican, migration
Relevance to Contemporary Minority Politics • Root of Asian American experience is exclusion • Does this have any relevance to the vast majority of Asian Americans who trace their U.S. roots to post-1965 immigrants? • Will this history of exclusion create the foundation for connections to African Americans and Latinos? • Narrow immigration restrictions can serve as the seed for more exclusive policies • Is the U.S. now in a period similar to 1875-1924? • If so, who are today’s Chinese?
Question for Next Time How did President Johnson build a legislative coalition to pass the Voting Rights Act?