1882 May 6

Chinese Exclusion Act Signed


The Chinese Exclusion Act, signed on this day, excluded all Chinese laborers from entering the United States. It is arguably the most restrictive immigration law ever enacted in the U.S., as the only law ever barring all members of a particular nationality group. The law did allow the immigration of a small number of people who could obtain certification from the Chinese government that they were non-laborers and thus “qualified” to enter the U.S. Relatively few people were able to meet this standard. The law also required that Chinese people who were already settled in the U.S., but who had left the country, to apply for reentry.

The law was repealed on December 17, 1943, by the Magnuson Act. Repeal was spurred by the fact that during World War II, China was an important ally in the war against Japan.

See the important case where the Supreme Court ruled that the child of Chinese immigrants born in the U.S. is an American citizen: March 28, 1898.

Read: Erika Lee, At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882–1943 (2003)

Learn more about the law: http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/exclusion.html

Learn more about an important challenge to the law: ttp://www.fjc.gov/history/home.nsf/page/tu_exclusion_background.html

Learn about the Asian American civil rights movement in Seattle: http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/aa_intro.htm

Learn about the history of Chinese women in America: https://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/chinese/1.html

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