Chinese Exclusion Act

08 April 2019
A United States Treasury Department Circular dated May 19, 1882
Courtesy of Scott Seligman, Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection
Scott Seligman捐赠,美国华人博物馆(MOCA)馆藏

In the late 1800s, racial tension towards Chinese mounted as Americans saw the booming immigrant population as a threat to their livelihood. These sentiments boiled over into violent, organized attacks on Chinese and manifested as anti-Chinese legislation. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first federal law to bar entry to a group of immigrants’ based solely on nationality. The Act prohibited skilled and unskilled Chinese laborers from entering the country, although merchants, students, and diplomats could gain passage. The ten-year act was renewed in 1892 with the passing of the Geary Act, which among other acts intensified regulations by requiring all Chinese to carry documentation. The Act was extended in perpetuity in 1902.

While the Act supposedly protected the American economy from immigrant-caused wage depression, no other ethnic group saw any immigration restrictions. At the height of Chinese immigration, they only accounted for 4.4% of the total immigrants allowed into the US while European immigrants accounted for 94%. In effect, nearly all Chinese were barred from immigrating to the States and those men who had left China to work in the U.S. could not reunite with their families without risking deportation. The Act would not be repealed until 1943 when the U.S. had to demonstrate fairness to China as they became allied during World War II. The document pictured is dated May 19, 1882, a circular sent by the U.S. Treasury Department to the Custom House in Philadelphia, describing the stipulations of the act thirty days after its passage.

十九世纪后期,美国人将迅速增长的移民人口视为对其生计的威胁,对中国人的种族紧张局势随之升级。这些情绪激起了对中国人的暴力,有组织的攻击,并表现为立法反华。 1882年,国会通过了“排华法案”,成为第一部仅凭国籍就可以将一个移民群体拒之门外的联邦法律。该法案虽然允许商人、学生、外交官获得通过,但禁止熟练和不熟练的中国劳工进入美国。这项为期十年的法案在1892年得到更新,同时通过了“Geary法案”,连同其它法案一起加强了法规,要求所有中国人携带文件。排华法案于1902年获得永久性延期。


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