UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper XXXIV @ Mandolin Café (Tacoma, WA)August 20, 2007, 7:00 p.m.
At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era,1882-1943
(Chapel Hill & London: University of North Carolina Press,2003).
Author’s ancestors’experiences (1-5). Her early fascination withthe subject (5-6). Book organized around“America’s gates,” esp. San Francisco (7-8).Other scholarly studies (8-9). Summary of book (9-13). Author the first to makeextensive use of immigration archives atbranch of National Archives in San Bruno, CA(13-18).
PART I: CLOSING THE GATES.
The issuearose in California in the 1870s (19-20).Race was the principal factor, whichchallenges the naïve paradigm of America as“a nation of immigrants” (20-22).
Ch. 1: The Chinese Are Coming. HowCan We Stop Them? Chinese Exclusionand the Origins of AmericanGatekeeping.
H.N. Clement of SanFrancisco told a California Senate committeein 1876: “How can we get rid of them? . . .How can we stop them?” (23). Page Act of 1875 aimed at Asian contract labor andwomen entering for “lewd or immoralpurposes” (24). Citing Lucy Salyer: it andthe Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 “providedthe legal architecture for twentieth-centuryAmerican immigration policy” (24). Anti-Chinese racism (25). Economic fears (26).Sexual and gender fears (26-27). Fear of miscegenation (27-29). Regional factors(American West) (29-30). Chinese exclusiongenerated “concepts of race” that provided aframework used to excluded subsequentgroups (30-39). It shaped subsequentimmigration regulation (40-43). Subsequentlegislation (43-45). The historical experienceestablished both future “rhetoric and tools”(46).
Ch. 2: The Keepers of the Gate: U.S.Immigration Officials and ChineseExclusion.
Low-level administrative officialsbecame de facto makers of policy thatresponded to “the anti-Chinese politicspermeating San Francisco at the end of the19
century” (47-48). Immigration controlbecame the U.S. Customs Service’s job (49).Interaction with politicians and publicpressure, including the threat of mobviolence, led to “the strictest interpretationpossible” of the laws to be enforced (49-51). John H. Wise, zealous anti-Chinese collectorof customs at S.F. (52-54). James R. Dunn,chief inspector (55-57). Biases weresystematically built into procedures (57-58).Racist prohibitions interfered with hiringcompetent interpreters (58-63). S.F. wasregarded as the model for the nation (63-64). Terence V. Powderly, U.S. commissioner-general of immigration, 1898-1902 (64-66).Frank P. Sargent, 1902-08 (67). Victor H.Metcalf, U.S. secretary of commerce andlabor (67-68). In 1905, in the
ruling,the Supreme Court “barred all Chinese,including those claiming U.S. citizenship,from appealing the bureau’s decisions in thecourts (68). In 1900 the Bureau of Immigration took official control of immigration, and by 1910 a “centralizedagency of career civil servants” haddeveloped (68). In part, this was a responseto Chinese complaints and pressure (69).Angel Island, which opened on Jan. 21, 1910,was administered with less overt prejudice,but the attitudes were built into theenforcement system (70-73). Nativism wasstrong at national HQ; cf. Anthony Caminetti,commissioner-general of immigration from1913 to 1920 (73-74).
PART II: AT AMERICA’S GATES.
AngelIsland became essentially a detention center,“a physical manifestation of the Chineseexclusion laws,” very different from EllisIsland, a processing center (75-76).
Ch. 3: Exclusion Acts: Race, Class,Gender, and Citizenship in theEnforcement of the Exclusion Laws.
Theexclusion laws and their enforcement forged“concepts of race, class, gender, sexuality,and citizenship for Americans in general”(77-78). Cases of mixed descent (78-81).Race-based immigration procedures (81-84).