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by Michelle Black

Chinese being questioned before entering the country.

America is a country of foreigners. Every American has ancestors who immigrated into the country at a point in history, therefore no one is truly American. Because of this, one would think that Americans would welcome new immigrants and empathize with their troubles. But during the late 1800's and the early 1900's when the influx of immigrants was greater than ever, Americans turned their backs on new immigrants. There was so much prejudice against them that laws were created to stop certain immigrants from coming into the country.

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first significant law restricting immigration into America. Before the law was passed, many Chinese immigrants had been coming to California to make money and return to China, or to start a new life in America. By 1867, about 50,000 Chinese had immigrated to the US. Their number increased after the Burlingame Treaty of 1868 was passed, which allowed Chinese immigration but not naturalization. Anti-Chinese riots in San Francisco in 1877 led to the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Although the Chinese made up only 0.002 percent of the US population, Congress passed the act to ensure that the Chinese would not dominate the work force in the west, and to maintain white racial purity. The Chinese that were already in the country challenged the act, calling it unconstitutional, but nothing was changed.

The exclusion act stopped any Chinese from immigrating into America for ten years and declared all Chinese ineligible for citizenship. The act was renewed in 1892 for another ten years. Then in 1902, the Chinese Exclusion Act became a law. The law was successful, as it stopped all Chinese immigrants from entering and the Chinese population in America declined. In 1924 the law expanded to exclude all Asians from immigrating. Finally in 1943, a new law extended citizenship rights and allowed 105 Chinese immigrants to enter the US each year. In 1965 this quota was abolished and Chinese were granted unlimited immigration and citizenship rights. After 83 long years of immigration restrictions, the Chinese were finally allowed to come to America.

Political cartoons against Chinese workers and Chinese immigrants.