A Journey Though the “Golden Gates” of Promise Great controversy exists over the true promises of the “Golden Gates” in the United States. Discrimination occurs with different ethnic groups, but for those immigrants permitted into the country, the opportunities are excellent. The laws and practices established to control immigration into the United States limit the amount of poverty that can be present in the country. Without these important practices and laws created by the United States Congress, “cheap” labor would overpower American citizen labor and lead the country to an economic and social catastrophe. Although the United States is often criticized for its establishment of immigration laws and practices during 1865 and 1930, these actions are very fair. It seems that the people of China have received a lot amount of discrimination as they try to venture into the promise lands of the United States.
Early discrimination of the Chinese is revealed when considering early laws and practices of the United States towards immigration. Not only did Congress pass laws and restrictions against Chinese but the attitudes of citizens towards the Chinese often led to uproars and bitterness towards the immigrants arriving from China. In the 1850s, the California legislature passed a series of anti-Chinese restrictions. These restrictions forbade Chinese Americans to enroll their children in public schools, to marry whites, or to testify against whites in the court of law. Some particular court cases display the effects of this law.
A very upsetting California court case decision in the 1850s for the Chinese people is called People vs. Hall. In August of 1853, George W. Hall, his brother, and their friend assaulted a Chinese miner in Nevada County. When Ling Sing, the Chinese mans cousin, came to help him, Hall shot and killed Ling Sing.
During the original trial, Hall was found guilty of murder charges and sentenced to death. Hall appealed the decision to the California Supreme Court and he was acquitted because no white witnesses to the murder were available. This reasoning is supported by the California State Civil Practice Act (under Section 394) that says no black, mulatto, or Indian can give testimony against white defendants in criminal cases. The controversy over this case occurs not just because of the obvious discrimination but because Chinese are not specifically referred to in the act and it is assumed that Indians and Asians belong to the same ethnic group. Basically anyone who was not considered white was looked down upon by the American white population.
The word ‘white’ has a distinct signification, which ex vi termini, excludes black, yellow, and all other colors, (Beesley 123). Chief Justice Hugh C. Murray, felt that the line had to be drawn, further states, the same rule that would admit them to testify, would admit them to all the equal rights of citizenship, and we might soon see them at the polls, in the jury box, upon the bench, and in our legislative halls, (Beesley 123). The ruling of the Hall court case led to many violent uproars among white American citizens and Chinese immigrants. Another action taken to try and get rid of the Chinese immigrants was the California Miners Tax of 1855. Its sole purpose was to drive Chinese immigrants out of the mining business by taxing foreign miners every month.
Many Chinese spoke out about these practices. “When your honorable government threw open the territory of California, the people of other lands were welcomed here to search for gold and to engage in trade. The ship-masters of your respected nation came over to our country, lauded the equality of your laws, extolled the beauty of your manners and customs, and made it known that your officers and people were extremely cordial toward the Chinese… we trusted in your sincerity…But alas! what times are these!..when former kind rela-tions are forgotten, when we Chinese are viewed like thieves and enemies..” (Pun 589). These awful laws and practices towards Chinese immigration led to many violent events.
In 1871, a mob of whites invaded a Chinese neighborhood in Los Angles and killed 21 residents. A similar event occurred in 1876 that became know as the Truckee Raid. During this incident, whites torched a Chinese home and shot its residents when they fled into the streets. More episodes followed that were often instigated by the “Order of Caucasians”, thugs who openly advocated violence. Groups such as the “Order of Caucasians” became common during this time period and provoked Chinese discrimination. The early discrimination of Chinese immigrants is the foundation for the later discrimination that developed and soon pertained not just to Chinese immigrants but to all immigrants in general.
In 1879, Congress passed a Chinese Exclusion Bill, giving in to pressure from anti-Chinese organizations and making a deal with Western lawmakers who promised political favors. Later, in 1882, Congress passed, and President Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act. This act barred all Chinese immigrants from the United States for ten years, except students, merchants, and children of Chinese-American citizens. Although this act was enacted, the Chinese already present in the United States, were ready and willing submit to the designs of white Americans: “Their curiously timid and unaggressive character was shown in every line of industry…Not the least of their good qualities appeared to be this tendency to mind their own business and slip away before the more aggressive Anglo-Saxon…Several early observers and pioneers praised their spirit of subordination to the law in comparison with other and more lawless immigrants… (Coolidge 24).
In 1892, the exclusions were extended and they remained in place until 1943. This particular exclusion act represented the first time Congress had restricted immigration and it marked the only occasion in United States history that an ethnic group was specifically singled out for exclusion. A head tax was also placed on each Chinese immigrant already present in the United States with the Chinese Exclusion Act leading to harsh attitudes from Chinese people towards the American government. The Chinese Exclusion Act is the foundation for the many ethnic discriminatory acts to follow dealing with immigration. In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order that forbade Japanese to enter the United States from Mexico and Canada and then convinced Japan to discourage its citizens from immigrating into the United States. The Gentlemens Agreement of 1907-8 ended the immigration of Japanese laborers to the United States by having the Japanese government refuse to issue passports to such persons.
This agreement also said that the United States should stop discrimination against the Japanese. The Gentleman’s Agreement did allow wives to join their husbands if they were already in America. Since the overwhelming number of Japanese in the United States in 1907 were males, the agreement led to a surge in legal immigration of females, who were often married by proxy in Japan to husbands who chose wives on the basis of pictures sent from the mother country to America. The Gentlemens Agreement displays the discrimination towards Japanese immigrants the beginning of general immigration. The California Alien Land Acts of 1913 and 1920 affects only Asians also. The people most affected by this act are Japanese farmers because it bars them from owning land. People affected by the California Alien Land Act are those ineligible to citizenship (Asian immigrants) who were not allowed to own or lease real property (land) unless a United States treaty provided otherwise. The consequence was that Japanese immigrants were not allowed to own farms in California.
Most of the states west of the Mississippi River enacted similar laws soon after. According to these laws, if an alien not eligible to citizenship tried to lease or own agricultural land, the deal was considered null and the land became the property of the State. The Alien Land Laws were justified as a means of protecting white farmers while at the same time discriminating against the Japanese immigrants because it left more land available for white farmers. In 1917, Congress established the Asiatic Barred Zone, shutting off the flow of emigrants from a region that encompassed not only China, but also Japan, Korea, India, Indochina, East Indies, Polynesia, parts of Russia, Arabia, and Afghanistan also. This act was enacted to try and ease the tension arising between American citizens and the arrival of many Asian immigrants. When this act was being created, the Asiatic Exclusion League demanded the exclusion of Koreans because they are the third sizable group from the Far East. Together, the restrictions on Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans excluded virtually all Asians who wanted to come to the United States.
The Barred Zone Act made it almost impossible for the immigration of Indians to occur, although students, scholars, ministers of religion and merchants could come in and stay sometimes. As Sucheng Chan stated, Stereotypes of Asian immigrants as plodding, degraded, and servile people–indeed, virtual slaves–notwithstanding, members of every Asian immigrant group did stand up for their rights and fought oppression in a myriad of ways (81). The discrimination of different ethnic groups grows as new acts and practices are enacted causing more uproar between immigrants and non-immigrants. Immigrants often ran into trouble when trying to marry due to practices of the United States. In 1880, the California Civil Code was amended to prohibit inter-racial marriages between a white person and a “Negro, Mulatto, Mongolian, and persons of mixed blood.” Again, the term “white” was interpreted loosely and therefore, everyone that was not truly Caucasian was not considered to be white. The Expatriation Act of 1907 provided that an American woman, naturalized or native born, who marries a foreigner loses her citizenship.
This law angered many women and was enforced to try and cut down on the number of immigrants entering the country. Many women, although not involved directly with this act, found it to be corrupt. Her right to remain a citizen or become one, to vote or exercise other political perquisites of American citizenship, to reside in the United States without threat of deportation or expatriation, to enter certain occupations, to re-enter the country after an absence abroad, to enjoy the protection of the U.S. government while traveling outside the country, and to secure American citizenship for her children was now wholly dependent on the citizenship of the man she wed” (Bredbenner 60). The guiding assumption of this act is that any woman, who would voluntarily marry a foreigner, is no longer deserving of and no longer to be trusted with, United States citizenship. These laws and practices of immigrant and non-immigrant marriages are discouraging because many citizens actually gave up their role in the American society to be with someone that they truly care for.
In that sense, the laws did not always “get the best” of the immigrants. The concept of a person giving up their citizenship to an immigrant displays how ridiculous the laws and practices involving immigration really are. During the years of 1880 and 1920, the “Great Migration”, more than 27,000,000 immigrants were brought to the United States soil. Western Europeans continued to arrive in North America, but they were eclipsed by peoples from the Southern and Eastern parts of the continent. Before this “Great Migration”, (1850-1880) more than 200,000 Chinese, 90% of them male, sailed across the Pacific Ocean and settled in California, Colorado, and other Western territories.
As well as being a source of labor, these foreign people bring ideas, theories, materials, and enchanting new foods with them as they walk through the “Golden Gates.” A whole new world is revealed for the United States as these alien human beings arrive on the American land. As more immigrants travel to the promise lands, more diversity begins to occur. A society with a great deal of diversity is often more likely to be acceptable to the new people because it is much more difficult to single out specific cultures and ethnic groups when such a variety is present. The ideas and customs introduced to the United States through immigration is beneficial to the culture as a whole because it allows cultural diversity to occur creating a balanced society of people. In 1921, the first quantitative immigration law was adopted to set temporary quotas according to nationality.
This law, known as the Quota Act of 1921 put a ceiling on immigration, allowing each ethnic group to grow each year by 3% of its population in 1910. The act established a yearly ceiling of 357,000 immigrants from outside the Western Hemisphere. This quota law applied to all immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and certain islands in the Atlantic and Pacific. In 1924, Congress enacted the Johnson-Reed Act (National Origins Act) which cut the overall ceiling 151,000 immigrants and reduced each yearly nationality quota to 2% of its percentage of the United States population as recorded in 1890. The act froze out Asian immigrants but exempted the quotas with Canada and Mexico because they were the 2 surrounding countries and it was best to keep peace with them. This act in 1924 is the first permanent immigration quota law to ever be established in American history.
It created a preference quota system, non-quota status, consular control system, and the Border Patrol. The annual quotas of the 1924 act were finally made permanent in 1929. Immigrants from northern and western Europe are considered highly adaptable and more likely to fit in with Americans than immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe are. Immigrants from Britain, Germany and Ireland were assigned generous quotas. The quotas for countries such as Russia, the source for most Jewish immigrants, and Italy were cut back. Practically all Asians were barred from entering the United States. The quotas established dealing with immigration are very important …