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The History Of Chinese Immigration Essay

2301 words - 9 pages

Many cities throughout the United States have a distinct neighborhood known as Chinatown. Chinatowns are ethnic enclaves, which are defined areas in a city with a high concentration of an ethnic group and thus a unique culture set apart from the larger city. To the inhabitants of the city, these ethnic enclaves may exist without much thought of the historical, or modern, reasons for their presence. However it is important to look at the reasons behind their existences and how these areas, like Chinatowns, relate to broader ethnic and race issues in the United States. By examining the history of Chinese immigration as well as some of the reasons why these distinct neighborhoods exist one can better understand modern Chinatowns and their importance in cities across the United States.
It is important to first examine the historical reasons for the growth of ethnic enclaves, particularly Chinatowns, found in numerous cities around the United States. The history of Chinese immigration is deeply tied with the creation of Chinatowns. Chinese immigration to the United States began in the first half of 1800s when “Chinese immigrants fleeing a faltering Qinq Dynasty came to California” (Hathaway, 44). Though the first Chinese immigrants originally planned to return back to their homeland, many of them “stayed on in the United States” and immigration then spread to different parts of the country (Hathaway, 44). As immigration increased and the Chinese population grew, laws began to be enacted in response. The most famous of these laws is the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which was the first law to put major restrictions and quotas on Chinese immigration. Following the Chinese Exclusion Act, other laws were passed to further restrict immigration and create new rules and regulations concerning the Chinese. For example, the Geary Act of 1892 extended immigration restrictions as well as required all Chinese to acquire “a certificate of residence” (“Geary Act of 1892). Additionally, if the Chinese were found to be in the United States illegally, the act said that they “shall be imprisoned at hard labor for a period of not exceeding on be year and thereafter removed from the United States” (“Geary Act of 1892”). These laws show the formal attitude of the United States towards the Chinese in the beginning of Chinese immigration. These various acts helped contribute to making the United States a hostile place for Chinese immigrants.
In addition to official laws creating a contentious environment, there was also informal discrimination and exclusions. Many of the first Chinese immigrants who came to California to participate in the Gold Rush found themselves faced with discrimination stemming from fear of competition and a strong anti-foreign sentiment (Kanazawa, 781). Gold mining was set up in a way that encouraged competitiveness between miners and “foreign, and especially Chinese miners bore the brunt of antagonism from native miners…because it was easier to...

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