Chinese Exclusion Act

Introduction

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. Those on the West Coast were especially prone to attribute declining wages and economic ills on the despised Chinese workers. Although the Chinese composed only .002 percent of the nation’s population, Congress passed the exclusion act to placate worker demands and assuage prevalent concerns about maintaining white “racial purity.”

The statute of 1882 suspended Chinese immigration for ten years and declared the Chinese as ineligible for naturalization. Chinese workers already in the country challenged the constitutionality of the discriminatory acts, but their efforts failed. T

he act was renewed in 1892 for another ten years, and in 1902 Chinese immigration was made permanently illegal. The legislation proved very effective, and the Chinese population in the United States sharply declined.

American experience with Chinese exclusion spurred later movements for immigration restriction against other “undesirable” groups such as Middle Easterners, Hindu and East Indians, and the Japanese. The Chinese themselves remained ineligible for citizenship until 1943.

The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Article Details:

Chinese Exclusion Act

  • Author

    History.com Staff

  • Website Name

    History.com

  • Year Published

    2009

  • Title

    Chinese Exclusion Act

  • URL

    http://www.history.com/topics/chinese-exclusion-act

  • Access Date

    July 26, 2014

  • Publisher

    A+E Networks