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1882 Chinese Exclusion Act

Chester Arthur

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act: Chester Arthur was the 21st American President who served in office from September 19, 1881 to March 4, 1885. One of the important events during his presidency was the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Definition and Summary of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act
Summary and definition:
The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first significant law to restrict immigration to the United States and banned the immigration of unskilled laborers from China. President Arthur at first vetoed the act believing that it violated the terms of the 1868 Burlingame Treaty with China.

The Burlingame Treaty was revised and the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed on May 6, 1882. The law was intended to restrict immigration from China for 10 years from 1882 to 1892, however the Exclusion Act was then extended by the 1892 Geary Act and then made permanent until it was repealed in 1943.

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act for kids: Background History
Following the acquisition of California laborers were in great demand in the West. The land was vast and there were not enough people so immigration was encouraged. The California Gold Rush attracted thousands of Americans seeking their fortune. Anti-immigrant sentiment began when the gold started to run out. Then, in 1852, a terrible famine hit China which resulted in a massive influx of Chinese immigrants. However cheap Chinese labor came in demand again in 1869 when Chinese laborers were hired for the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, however the completion of the railroad freed up thousands of Chinese laborers, fueling the hostility of American workers. The nation was hit by a long period of economic depression and high levels of unemployment. Immigrants were blamed which led to great friction and calls for the exclusion of Chinese immigrants.

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act for kids: Anti-Chinese Riots
By 1870, the Chinese constituted 25% of the labor force in California. In 1877 anti-Chinese riots occurred in San Francisco, California.  and in 1879 pressure from the west coast resulted in Congress passing a bill to ban Chinese immigration. President Chester Arthur at first vetoed the Chinese Exclusion Act believing that it violated the terms of the 1868 Burlingame Treaty.

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act for kids: The 1868 Burlingame Treaty with China
In 1868 Anson Burlingame had negotiated the treaty of friendship with China, guaranteeing the right of Chinese immigration, but did not grant the right of naturalization.
The Burlingame Treaty was subsequently revised in 1880 allowing the United States to limit, or suspend the entry of Chinese labor, but not to ban it. The Chinese Exclusion Act  suspended immigration of Chinese laborers for 10 years. The law  was passed by President Arthur on May 6, 1882.

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act for kids: Laborers and Non-Laborers
The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act stated that " the opinion of the Government of the United States the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good order of certain localities within the territory..." The Chinese Exclusion Act also addressed the issue of Chinese “non-laborers” and required obtain certification from the Chinese government that declared that they were qualified to immigrate. The law allowed merchants, clergy, diplomats, teachers, students as “exempt” classes to enter the United States from China.

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act for kids: Immigrants already in the US
Chinese immigrants already in the United States also faced new requirements as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act also stated that if they left the US, they needed to obtain re-entry certification. Federal and State courts were refused the right to grant citizenship to Chinese resident aliens but these courts retained the legal power to deport Chinese from the United States.

Immigration Act of 1882 for kids: US Immigration Policy
The second law passed by Congress in the same year as the Chinese Exclusion Act was the Immigration Act of 1882 which restricted immigrants from Europe. This law was quickly followed by the
1885 Alien Contract Labor Law (Foran Act) that virtually banned foreign contract labor.

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act for kids: Relatives in America
A son or daughter of an American citizen was granted entry to the US regardless of nationality. If a Chinese immigrant was related to a citizen in America, he or she would be allowed entrance into the country. This exemption would result in the phenomenon of "paper sons" and "paper daughters" in which many people falsified papers claiming their parents were in America. 

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act for kids: Future Acts
Although the Chinese Exclusion Act was only intended to cover a period of ten years later, Acts of law were passed extending the period of exclusion. The 1882 Exclusion Act expired in 1892 but a new treaty was signed in 1894 in which China agreed to exclusion of Chinese laborers for 10 years and the Exclusion Act was extended it for 10 years through the Geary Act. The
Angel Island Immigration Station was opened in 1910. The extensions continued and were eventually made permanent and the immigration law of 1924 excluded  all classes of Chinese immigrants and extended restrictions to other Asian immigrant groups.

Repeal of the Exclusion Acts
In 1943 the Exclusion Acts were repealed when the 1943 Magnuson Act was signed, setting an annual immigration quota and extending citizenship privileges to Chinese.

US American History
1881-1913: Maturation Era

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Updated 2018-01-01

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