Chinese immigration (3-8-43)

The Pittsburgh Press (March 8, 1943)

Background of news –
Chinese immigration

By editorial research reports

With certain spokesmen for China demanding a greater proportion of Lend-Lease supplies and complaining of too little hostile effort against Japan as compared with Germany, a Chinese newspaper has suggested, courteously, that the time has now come to reconsider the immigration policy of the United States excluding Orientals.

In recent years, China has refrained from following the example of Japan in protesting against flat exclusion of Oriental immigration. That was because China was too weak as a nation to protest with force. What Japan objected to, and China may now object to, is not so much restriction in numbers of immigrants as restriction based on racial discrimination.

The 1924 Immigration Act of the United States bases immigration, except for Orientals and for non-quota countries in the Western Hemisphere, on the proportion of those from each country resident in the United States in 1920. The total number admissible in any one year is 153,774, of which 150,501 are Europeans. The Japanese contention was that if their yardstick were applied to Japan, less than 1,000 Japanese would be allowed to enter annually. If this yardstick were now to be applied to China, it would allow the immigration of about 475 Chinese annually.

Control over immigration is purely a domestic prerogative, so long as the same basis of control is applied to all nations. If there is to be discrimination, however, the problem is held to require diplomatic negotiation.

Between 1850 and 1860, almost 50,000 Chinese emigrated to the Pacific Coast, after the discovery of gold. In the next decade, some 65,000 more entered, most of them for construction work on the transcontinental railroads. The state and cities of California tried to stem Chinese immigration by various restrictive measures. These were held unconstitutional, inasmuch as control over immigration is the province of the federal government.

In 1868, the Burlingame Treaty was signed with China. It barred entrance to Chinese laborers under contract or compulsion, but otherwise committed the United States to a policy of free immigration. In 1870, Chinese were brought into Massachusetts to break a strike, and both major political parties adopted platform declarations for restricting Chinese immigration.

The panic of 1873 and the ensuing depression caused widespread unemployment, and in 1879, Congress passed an act practically closing the gates to Asiatics. It met with a veto from President Hayes, as violating treaty obligations. In 1880, when about 16,000 Chinese were coming into the United States annually, China consented to a revision of the 1868 treaty. Thereby the immigration of Chinese laborers might be controlled if the welfare of the United States demanded.

In accord with the 1880 treaty, Congress passed, in 1882, an act prohibiting immigration of Chinese laborers for 10 years. The act also withheld citizenship from the China-born, thus strengthening the earlier naturalization laws, which has restricted naturalization to “free white persons.”

In 1888, another treaty was concluded with China, but changes made by the Senate impelled the Chinese government not to ratify. A treaty ratified in 1894 gave the United States still further restrictive powers. The Exclusion Act of 1882 was regularly renewed, until Congress, by the Immigration Act of 1924, forbade the immigration of all ineligible to naturalization. This hit the Japanese, the immigration of whom had been limited since 1907 by the “gentlemen’s agreement” of that year.

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