The Chinese Exclusion Act 1882
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first major immigration restriction in the United States. Many Americans on the West Coast blamed Chinese laborers for their low incomes and economic woes. Despite the fact that Chinese people made up only.002% of the population, Congress approved the exclusion legislation to appease labor demands and alleviate widespread worries about protecting white “racial purity.”
Chinese Immigration in America
The mid-nineteenth-century Opium Wars between Great Britain and China (1839-42, 1856-60) left China in debt. Floods and droughts forced peasants to abandon their crops, and many fled the nation in search of work. When gold was found in California’s Sacramento Valley in 1848, a massive influx of Chinese immigrants arrived in the United States to participate in the California Gold Rush.
Following a harvest collapse in China in 1852, more than 20,000 Chinese immigrants sought work at San Francisco’s customs house (up from 2,716 the previous year). Violence erupted quickly between white miners and the newcomers, much of it ethnically motivated. California implemented a $3 monthly Foreign Miners Tax in May 1852, targeting Chinese miners, and crime and violence increased.