History of Chinese Immigration in the United States, The

Published at ChinaInsight.com on Tuesday, 27 January 2009 03:00

All the Wikipedia links were entered by Malcolm Johnson.


Three Chinese seamen arrive in the continental United States aboard the ship Pallas in Baltimore, MD.


The Naturalization Act of 1790 restricts citizenship to “free white persons” of “good moral character.” The law would be enforced until 1952. In effect the Nation is divided between White and racial minority populations, each of whom would be accorded different and unequal rights and treatment. Racial minorities would be limited in their citizenship, voting, residency, jury, property, and family rights. Asian Americans, including Chinese Americans, would be directly affected by this legislation until it was rescinded by the passage of the Walter-McCarran Act of 1952.


The first U.S. Census notation of Chinese in America records three Chinese living in the United States.


There is record of four Chinese living in the United States.


Gold found at Sutter’s Mill, California, attracts Chinese immigrants to mine gold.


Chinese American population represents 4,000 out of a total U.S. population of 23.2 million.


The California Supreme Court decision, People v. Hall, rules that Chinese cannot testify in court.


California legally prohibits Chinese and “Mongolian” immigration.


Chinese American population represents 34,933 out of a total U.S. population of 31.4 million.


The United States prohibits the importation of Chinese “coolies” on American vessels.


The Central Pacific Railroad Company recruits thousands of Chinese men to work on the first transcontinental railroad.


The United States and China ratify the Burlingame-Seward Treaty, which sanctions mutual emigration between the two countries.


The first transcontinental railroad is completed with significant Chinese immigrant labor.


Congress approves the Naturalization Act, barring Chinese from obtaining U.S. citizenship. The Act also prevents immigration of Chinese women who have marital partners in the United States.

Chinese and Japanese men must show evidence in support of a woman’s moral character in the case of prospective and actual wives of Chinese and Japanese descent.

The Chinese American population represents 63,199 out of a total U.S. population of 38.5 million. They represent close to half of the male labor force in California.


October 24, 1871

Los Angeles Chinese Massacre: A dispute between two Chinese leads to the accidental shooting of a Caucasian man and sparks the Los Angeles Chinese Massacre. A mob of 500 angelenos attacks Chinatown killing 19 Chinese men and boys.


Congress passes the Page Law, which bars Chinese, Japanese, and “Mongolian” prostitutes, felons, and contract laborer immigration.


In In re Ah Yup, a federal district court in California rules Chinese ineligible for naturalized citizenship.


The United States and China sign a treaty that allows the United States to limit Chinese immigration.


The Chinese Exclusion Act halts Chinese laborer immigration for 10 years and denies Chinese from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens.


The U.S. Supreme Court decision, Yick Wo v. Hopkins, rules that laws that are enforced with racial discrimination violates the 14th Amendment.


The Scott Act declares over 20,000 Chinese laborers’ re-entry permits null and void.


The U.S. Supreme Court decision, Chae Chan Ping v. United States, upholds Chinese Exclusion laws’ constitutionality.


The Chinese American population represents 107,488 out of a total U.S. population of 62.9 million.


The Geary Act extends the Chinese Exclusion Act for another 10 years and requires all Chinese residents to carry permits.


In Fong Yue Ting v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Congress has the power to expel the Chinese.


Sun Yat Sen, founder of modern China and political activist, helps bring down the Qing dynasty. He establishes home-base operations for the liberation of China among Chinese American communities in Hawaii, San Francisco, and in New York.


The U.S. Supreme Court admits Wong Kim Ark, a Chinese American born and raised in the United States, back into the United States. Ark was initially denied entry due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. The case rules that U.S.-born Chinese cannot be divested of their citizenship.


Congress makes the Chinese Exclusion acts indefinite. Law enforcement officials arrest 250 allegedly illegal Chinese immigrants without search warrants.


California’s Civil Code forbids intermarriage between Whites and “Mongolians.”


San Francisco earthquake destroys immigration records. This opens the opportunity for a new surge of Chinese immigrants. These “paper sons” could now claim with the loss of official records that they were U.S. citizens and had the right to bring family members to America.

The U.S. government creates the Bureau of Immigration.


The 1870 Naturalization Act is expanded to apply to other Asians.

Angel Island Detention Center opens. The Center, located off California, examines potential Asian immigrants. Many of them are Chinese immigrants.

The Chinese American population represents 94,414 out of a total U.S. population of 92.2 million.


The Immigration Act of 1917 restricts immigration of Asian persons and denies entry of natives from the “barred zone.”


World War I Asian veterans receive right of naturalization.


The Asian Exclusion Act, which is part of the Immigration Act of 1924, excludes all Asian laborer immigrants from entering into the United States.

The U.S. Border Patrol is created, as an agency under the Department of Labor, to regulate Chinese immigration to the United States across the U.S.-Mexico border.

The National Origins Act establishes discriminatory immigration quotas that severely limit the number of Asians entering into the United States.


Chinese wives of American citizens are denied entry.


Annual immigration quotas are declared permanent.


The Tydings-McDuffie Act grants the Philippines independence, but denies Filipinos U.S. citizenship and limits Filipino immigration.


The U.S. government closes the Angel Island Detention Center.


The United States declares war against Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack.


The Magnuson Act of 1943, better known as the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act, rescinds the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 for geopolitical and military reasons, thereby allowing Chinese immigrants to obtain citizenship status. An immigration cap of 105 Chinese are allowed to immigrate annually.

China and the United States become World War II allies against Japan. The U.S. Army drafts over 20 percent of Chinese men living in the United States.


War Brides Act permits immigration of foreign wives, husbands, fiancés, and children of U.S. Army personnel.

World War II ends after the United States drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.


Due to the 1945 War Brides Act, 6,000 Chinese women enter into the United States as wives of Chinese American servicemen.


The United States grants refugee status to 5,000 highly educated Chinese after China launches a Communist government. This Central Intelligence Agency Act (CIA Act) encourages Chinese scientists, engineers, and physicists to enter into the United States in furtherance of U.S. national security interests.


Chinese American population represents 150,005 out of a total U.S. population of 151.3 million.


The Walter-McCarran Immigration and Naturalization Act revokes the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924. A small number of Asians are also allowed to immigrate to the United States and are given citizenship status.

The Immigration and Nationality Act allows individuals of all races to apply for naturalization, stints immigration from the Eastern hemisphere, and establishes preferences for family members of U.S. citizens and skilled workers.


The Refugee Relief Act offers unlimited immigrant visas to Chinese refugees.


The U.S. government implements the eight-year “Confession Program” to encourage illegal Chinese immigrants to reveal identities of illegal residents.


The Kennedy Emergency Immigration Act (KEIA Act) permits 5,000 Chinese immigrants to enter the United States during the period of China’s “Great Leap Forward” movement.


Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 rejects “national origins” as a basis for distributing immigration quotas among countries, creates a new quota of 20,000 immigrants from any country, gives preference to skilled workers, and encourages family reunification for individuals with family members who reside outside the United States. A surge of immigrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan enter into the United States subsequent to the passage of this law, signaling a mass migration from Asia.


San Francisco State College and the University of California at Berkeley students successfully strike for more minority studies programs. The demonstration leads to the historic School of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State College and the creation of Black Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. In following years, Asian American Studies, Chicano Studies, Native American Studies, and comparative Ethnic Studies programs start at U.C. Berkeley and University of California at Los Angeles. These programs address the immigration history and ethnic experiences of Asian Americans and Chinese Americans.


New Chinese immigrants settle in the peripheries of Los Angeles’ Chinatown. New communities of Chinese Americans become increasingly located in the suburbs, such as at Monterey Park and Walnut.

Chinese American population represents 237,292 out of a total U.S. population of 179.3 million.


United States begins a cease-fire in Vietnam.


The U.S. Supreme Court decision, Lau v. Nichols, rules that non-English speaking students must be provided bilingual-bicultural education.


More than 130,000 refugees from Vietnam, Kampuchea, Laos, and China enter the United States through the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act (IMRA Act), fleeing their native countries’ Communist governments. Many of them are of ethnic Chinese origin.


Long-separated Chinese American family members reunite as the People’s Republic of China and the United States resume diplomatic dialogues.

The Taiwanese Relations Act gives Taiwan a separate immigration quota from mainland China, resulting in greater numbers of Taiwanese immigrants to the United States.


Two White men beat Vincent Chin, a Chinese American in Detroit, to death, mistaking Chin as Japanese. The murder occurs on the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. His death signals the birth of the modern day Asian American civil rights movement.

Congress provided that children born overseas of American fathers, who held U.S. citizenship after 1950, could come to the United States as immediate relatives.

California State Legislature passes the Chinese Roast Duck Bill, AB2603, which stemmed from concerns about Chinese roast ducks and other protein items prepared in the restaurants of Los Angeles Chinatown. The bill ensures that Chinese culinary traditions be maintained despite some concerns at the time that meat and other protein items were not being handled in manners that were in compliance with Los Angeles County health codes.



The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA Act) legalizes 300,000 undocumented aliens who have been living in the United States since 1982 and imposes civil and criminal penalties on employers who intentionally employ illegal immigrants.


Amerasian Homecoming Act provides for the admission of children born in Vietnam to Vietnamese mothers and American fathers, together with their immediate relatives. These individuals would be admitted as nonquota immigrants and be able to receive refugee program benefits. Some of these individuals were of ethnic Chinese background.


Tiananmen Square protests occur. President George H.W. Bush issues an executive order that permits mainland Chinese scholars, students, and their families to permanently stay in the United States.


The 1990 Immigration Act modifies and expands the 1965 Immigration Act and significantly increases the total immigration to the United States to 700,000 per annum and increases visas by 40 percent. Although family reunification continues as a main immigration focus there are significant increases in the provisions for employment-based immigration.

Chinese American population represents 1,645,472 out of a total U.S. population of 248.7 million.

Chinese American communities experience a surge of new immigrants from Fujian province in China who settle in ethnic enclaves in New York City, Los Angeles, and Boston.


The Chinese Student Protection Act (CSPA Act) grants permanent resident status to nationals of the People’s Republic of China who were in the United States after June 4, 1989 and before April 11, 1990. This Act gains passage partly as a reaction to the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989.


The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA Act) increases INS enforcement operations, constricts basic rightsof due process for immigrants, and reduces avenues for immigrants to legalize their status. Specifically, this law denies aliens not lawfully present social security benefits.


Dr. Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwan-born U.S. citizen physicist, is arrested for allegedly spying for China. Law enforcement officials imprison him for 278 days before the U.S. District Judge releases Lee with an apology. For a time, his treatment dampens the enthusiasm of people from China and Taiwan with scientific skills to immigrate to the United States.


The Chinese American population represents 2,879,636 out of a total U.S. population of 281.4 million. The Asian Pacific American population is about 12.5 million.


The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) becomes part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is renamed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Immigration and customs enforcement becomes the purview of the DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) organization.


The Real ID Act of 2005 severely curtails habeas corpus relief for immigrants, reduces and amends judicial review, imposes federal restrictions on the issuance of state drivers’ licenses, and increases immigration enforcement provisions while limiting opportunities for political asylum.


The Chinese American population represents 3,565,458 out of a total U.S. population of 299 million. The Asian Pacific American population is about 14.9 million.


Source: A Portrait of Chinese Americans

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