“The ultimate measure of a person is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where one stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image: Wikipedia

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. Many Americans attributed declining wages to Chinese workers. Although the Chinese composed only 0.002 percent of the nation’s population, Congress passed the exclusion act to assuage prevalent concerns about maintaining white “racial purity.”

The Opium Wars left China in debt. Floods and drought also made many leave the country to find work. When gold was discovered in California, a large uptick in Chinese immigrants entered the United States to join the California Gold Rush. In 1854, it was ruled in People v. Hall, that the Chinese, like African Americans and Native Americans, were not allowed to testify in court, making it impossible for Chinese immigrants to seek justice against the mounting violence.

The Act was meant to curb the influx of Chinese immigrants to the United States. It suspended Chinese immigration for ten years and declared Chinese immigrants ineligible for naturalization. Chinese-Americans challenged the constitutionality of the discriminatory acts, but their efforts failed.

We see this discrimination still existing in the U.S. with people calling the Coronavirus the “Chinese virus”, and many feeling as if immigrants are taking their jobs.