What the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 Should Teach Trump on Immigration and Border Walls

in #history6 years ago (edited)


- Use and Abuse

The United States of America greeted many of its immigrants with open arms during the great expansion of the country in the 1800's. The U.S. was a growing nation then, industrialized yet still seeking to connect its two coasts via the U.S. railroad. Then the California Gold Rush hit in the late 1840's, and immigrants from all over the world poured into the U.S., in particularly California and the West.

It was during this time that many Chinese men made the long journey to America, seeking work that would allow many to maintain a household back in China. They came to build the railroad and to mine California Gold. Many other immigrants from other parts of the world also came and contributed during this time of great expansion.

Yet, it would only be the Chinese that would be targeted once the good times stopped. After most of the major railroads had been built, and most of the Gold had been dug up came harder times for the U.S. The U.S. Civil War had ended mid 1865, and by the 1870's, the U.S. was in an economic down turn. It was during these times that the sentiment towards immigrants turned from a welcoming one to one of disdain. This wave of anti-immigrant hit the Chinese particularly hard, with many blaming the Chinese for the harsh economic times of the day. By 1882, Congress had enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act which basically made it illegal for any Chinese person to legally emigrate into the United States. This act would keep many Chinese families apart for years if not permanently.

It would be this act, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, that would springboard illegal immigration and the smuggling trade of undocumented people, particularly through Mexico. Since hundred of thousands of Chinese had already legally emigrated and made life in the United States, this new law kept many from reuniting with family and loved ones. The Exclusion Act of 1882 basically barred anyone from China legally entering the U.S. for ten years. For many that was unfair and too long to have to wait to have their families with them.

This Chinese exclusion Act drove those desperate for family and loved ones to smuggle their families in to the U.S. During this time there was no official U.S. Immigration Department that guarded the borders. This allowed the Chinese to use Mexico and Canada as smuggling routes to bring their loved ones to America. The wave of illegal Chinese immigrants from both the northern and southern border eventually led to a build up of U.S. border protection in order to prevent the mostly Chinese immigrants.

This anti-immigrant political wave of the late 1800's rolled on in to the early 1900's. It culminated with the U.S. Immigration Act of 1924 which was enacted to mostly restrict immigration of Chinese and other Asians, as well as Eastern and Southern Europeans while also banning East Indians and Arabs. Ironically, it exempted Mexicans from this list of excluded migrants since Mexicans are considered Native American with (Northern) European (White) blood. Thus Northern Europeans, Whites and Mexicans could legally migrate to the U.S. even after the Immigration Act of 1924.

But the love for the Mexican immigrant would last only as long as the economic good times rolled as was the case with the Chinese. The depression of 1929 quickly put an end to the romance between the U.S. economy and the Mexican migrants. After 1929, Mexicans and people of Mexican descent were no longer needed nor welcomed in the United States, and immigration enforcement against immigrants became the norm then and since. America's unofficial open borders policy officially ended during this time.

Although the borders have become increasingly policed and secured since the Immigration Act of 1924, America's love affair with cheap illegal immigrant labor seems more like an addiction. In the mid 1960's, U.S. immigration policy once again favored Mexican immigrants with favorable policies geared towards uniting U.S. residents with family abroad by allowing them to emigrate into the U.S.

This love / hate relationship with immigrants has been on going for well over 100 hundreds years. Everything is fine and dandy when the economic times are good, and cheap labor is in demand. Then, immigrants seeking a better life are welcomed to slave away under America's Corporate profit machines for the Wealthy. The love affair quickly ends in scape goating, or maybe in today's modern version of breaking up called ghosting when the economic good times end. Under Donald Trump, this soured relationship is going to end up with a supposed 2,000 mile long fence/wall.

If history teaches us anything, it is that people will always find a way when desperate enough. In the late 1880's, the Chinese used the Canadian border as well as the Mexican border to illegally cross into the United States. So if and when Trump's wall is put up on the Southern U.S. border, will he then be prepared to place one on the U.S. Canadian Border as well? Should the East Coast and West Coast get walled up too? Then will Trump be prepared to dig deep around those walls and cement the tunnels too?


Is there a better question with a better answer?

Would spending the Billions needed for the Wall/s be better used to economically boost repressed and depressed economic regions, thus creating a better quality of life and stemming the flow of immigration?

It seems to me that building a wall just leads to people going around, over, under and through it. With the U.S.'s low unemployment rate of 3.9%, it just might not make sense to wall the U.S. in, when it might be looking for outside labor like it has in the past..... only to boot them when done with them?

Full Steem Ahead!


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The US and Australia have a similar culture of promoting multiculturalism and diminishing the less desirable historical facts.

Australia only became a nation independent of Britain in 1901, at which time one of the first policies passed was literally The white Australia policy. This was designed to keep the nation British. Post ww2 they relaxed the policy to allow European immigration, which retained the white Australia ideal. The immigration officer were able to separate the less desirable (nonwhite) applicants by administering a dictation test which if passed in English could be requested in any European language.

Chinese immigration to Australia had commenced long before the nation was even created, and boomed during the gold rush. They were victims of racial violence on the gold fields The Lambing flat riots in 1861 saw 250 Chinese miners were attacked by 2000 European miners. There were many people injured and they lost their possessions, but rather than being protected by the mostly nonexistent law enforcement, The Chinese Immigration Restriction and Regulation Act was introduced in the state of NSW in 1861. The other East Coast states followed suit in 1877 an 1886.

The white Australia policy still existed until 1966!
The denial of the very existence of the first nations who had been on this land over 65 000 years continued until a referendum in 1967 decided to grant changes to the constitution and include indigenous peoples as equal citizens. It wasn't until 1992 that the Mabo case over turned the doctrine of Terra Nullius.
Literally meaning Nobodys Land, The these laws denied the fact that Indigenous peoples had prior occupation and connection to the land. One man, Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo's 10 year fight went all the way to the high court. He didn't live to see it, but-

The 1992 Mabo decision led to the Native Title Act (1993) which created a framework that recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights to, and interests in, certain land because of their traditional laws and customs. It allows access to land for living, traditional purposes, hunting or fishing and/or to teach laws and customs on the land.

Exclusion, whether by means of walls or policies just set up a framework for prejudice and future challenges to reconciliation.
Chinese Australians have been here since before the nation was declared but are still told to go back to where they came from. The oldest nations of people in the world are here and still not properly acknowledged in the constitution. My own family are here because my ancestors who came from Southern Africa were in fact white. My children's Middle Eastern great grandmother, luckily for the family, was fluent in French when they arrived post ww2 and she was challenged with the European dictation test.

But history has taught us nothing. I have written before about our current immigration act and treatment of refugees in indefinite off shore detention. Shaping up to be our next big shameful historical regret.

Great post @streetstyle. I feel obliged to apologise for writing a book, but you tapped into something I am passionate about.

History is seldom glorious, but without recognising it, we cannot change.

I referenced the Australian national museum for accurate dates. www.nma.gov.au

This was great @girlbeforemirror I much appreciate the info and the candor.

I figured the U.S. isn't the only country to mistreat its indigenous people as well as its immigrants and refugees, which sadly brings no comfort to know that this happens elsewhere.
For me, I guess it is America's double standard that gets me. Welcoming and even luring immigrants for the cheap labor only to despise and disassociate with the immigrant once they are of no service or use.

Worse yet, the U.S. will go on the attack when other countries mistreat people, be it their own people or others. I believe that is why many countries and people around the world do not like the U.S. policies. This two faced double standard continues to this very moment with U.S. President Trump mistreating and mislabeling people and nations of color while within its own borders mistreats those that struggled to get to America for a better life.

Simply a sad state of human affairs.

Australia calls it Operation Sovereign Borders.
Rezoned all islands around the continent and then eventually the continent itself. Removing all land from migration zone to remove the legal rights of refugees in 2013.

With compulsory off shore detention and a promise to never be settled in Australia if refugees arrive by sea.
They are not even referred to as refugees. They were called asylum seekers, then illegal immigrants then queue jumpers.

The first "boat people" that arrived in Australia were from Vietnam and were received like brave heroes. Now, we send even children to be locked in camps in neighbouring pacific nations.

There were deaths at sea. The government uses the statistics of decreased smuggling and boat arrivals to legitimise the practice.

It doesn't change the fact that the UN found the Australian government policies to be in breach of human rights.


Not sure if the wall will do anything. I thought it was a joke hehe.

great post dear.Much obliged for sharing it

The law starts out by saying Chinese laborers constitute a danger to the United States. Yup; it just comes right out and says it. Then it says they can't immigrate for ten years.

There's only so many ways to say, "Hey, all those Chinese people who want to live and work in the U.S.? No thanks." This law tries all of them. The meat of the law is in Section 1, which is that bars Chinese people from immigrating for ten years.

The rest of it is spent on enforcement, including a system of monitoring Chinese people already in the country. It also points out how ship captains are supposed to deal with Chinese passengers, since this was before commercial air travel.

Correct, and thus Angel Island in San Francisco.

The Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States for ten years. It also prevented the Chinese already in the U.S. from becoming citizens. Congress renewed the law in 1892, and made it permanent in 1902. It was not until 1943 that the Act was repealed, allowing Chinese immigration and granting citizenship to Chinese nationals already residing in the country. But by then, many once-thriving Chinese communities in the U.S. had nearly disappeared.

Very interesting know the history of this kind of thoughts i think walls divide no just people divide the progress of nations but at the same time the culture is a big key factor here because you don't want in your country the crap of other so the solution here is try to create protocols between the countries and work togheter. Regards

These walls will also harm wild life, especially those that depend on large swaths of land to range and hunt.

Thank you very much for sharing this history my dear friend

The Chinese? Is that the reason why we have many Chinese immigrants in the united states? Did the Chinese governments play a role in this?

Yes, this is why LA, New York and San Francisco have ChinaTowns. Not sure what role the Chinese govt. played other than to screw over its people as most governments tend to do.

Well Im guessing the Chinatown wasn't just a co-incidences really, I guess there's a whole more We don't even know

Since I am in support of ending most entangling alliances... I think the real best solution is to build a couple military bases along the border. Bring the troops home and let them train along the border.

Though in the end I hope we can get rid of walls and imaginary lines of separation.

Outstanding post and amazing photos. Thank you for sharing

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