The United States argued that to accept Chinese Americans as citizens because of a “mere accident of birth” would be:

a most degenerate departure from the patriotic ideals of our forefathers; and surely in that case American citizenship is not worth having.



The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) was a US law that shut off all immigration from China to the US except for scholars, merchants, diplomats and professionals. It is where the American idea of “illegal aliens” comes from, the beginning of the country’s racist immigration policies.

At first just immigration from China was limited, then Japan and Korea were added (1907), then the Asiatic Barred Zone (1917) and then southern and eastern Europe (1924). On top of that, Chinese and Mexicans were being driven out by violence and deportation.

That is why the US was so lily-white in the 1950s. Some think of that as the “natural” state of the country, but it was the creation of a set of racist policies that began with the Chinese Exclusion Act, policies that were not overturned till 1965.

In 1881 Senator John F. Miller of California spoke in favour of the Act

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