Due largely to the social climate of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Chinese immigrates in the United States faced tremendous hardships. Various laws were passed by misunderstanding US governments who were attempting to protect the jobs of European-Americans from the influx of the Chinese workers. Such laws were intended to quell the growth of Chinese-Americans as well as put them at a disadvantage in terms of chances for their success in American society. Due to the government’s legislation during the period of 1882-1943, Chinese-American communities sought strength in togetherness. Unfortunately, this protective attitude, paired with unfavorable immigration laws, led to isolation, lack of assimilation, and stagnant growth of the Chinese-American community. In 1881, roughly 40,000 Chinese immigrated to the US. However, in 1882, only 23 Chinese are known to have came to America. This trend continued into the days of the second World War.
When discussing US immigration laws concerning the Chinese, one should examine four acts signed into law:
1. The Page Act (1875)
2. The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)
3. The Geary Act (1892)
4. The Geary Act‚Äôs indefinite renewal (1902)
The Page Act was the first legislation passed that was intended to stem the flow of Chinese immigrating to the US. Once passed into law, the Act prohibited the legal arrival of Chinese who were classified as undesirable. Under the bill, all Chinese coming to America who were contract laborers of either skilled or unskilled jobs were no longer welcome. Any Chinese woman engaged in prostitution would be immediately deported from the US. All people who were ever convicted of a crime in China would also be denied entry into America.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was passed with the intention of banning Chinese immigration into the US altogether for a period of ten years. The administration of President Chester A. Arthur feared the Chinese workforce. Their only concern was for Americans of European descent, which they felt were losing too many jobs and opportunities to those from China.
The Chinese Exclusion Act, after its initial ten years of existence, was renewed for another ten years by the Geary Act. However, the Geary Act did more than just simply extend the Exclusion Act, it require all Chinese within the US to carry at all times, a resident permit. This permit essentially forced Chinese-Americans to carry a passport inside their own country. Adding to more humiliation, under the Geary Act, Chinese were prohibited from bearing witness in court proceedings. Furthermore, they were banned from the right of habeas corpus.
Through all these restrictive laws was a loophole for Chinese to gain full citizenship. In 1898 the US Supreme Court ruled that anyone born within the borders of the United States shall be considered citizens with full rights.
This decision led to the creation of the famous Paper Sons. These were children who had fake identifications showing their fictitious places of birth. The Paper Sons were brought in by the help of Chinese already living in America for the purpose of maintaining Chinatowns
In 1902, the Geary Act was renewed for an indefinite period of time. Chinese immigration suffered under The Chinese Exclusion Act and its following amendments until it was finally repealed in 1943.