In researching the details of a museum that my father wanted to go to on our trip in San Francisco, I read this. It’s crazy that, more than 100 years later, the motivations for limiting immigration and the use of legislation to exclude certain classes of immigrants persists. The faces of the undesireable immigrants is all that has changed:
During the 1870s, an economic downturn resulted in serious unemployment problems, and led to politically motivated outcries against Asian immigrants who would work for low wages. In reaction to states starting to pass immigration laws, in 1882 the federal government asserted its authority to control immigration and passed the first immigration law, barring lunatics and felons from entering the country. Later in 1882, the second immigration law barred Chinese, with a few narrow exceptions. Imperial China was too weak and impoverished to exert any influence on American policy. This law was originally for 10 years, but was extended and expanded and not repealed until 1943, when China was our ally in World War II. However, only 105 Chinese were allowed in legally each year, so the exception process actually continued into the 1950’s. Chinese were not on a equal immigration footing with other nationalities until immigration laws were completely rewritten in the mid 1960’s.