A whole class of people, forbidden from ever becoming citizens . . . forbidden from even entering the country-their rights torn up and trampled on, left with no political redress. This was the United States of America from 1882 through 1943-if you had the misfortune to be Chinese.
The United States Congress banned all Chinese from becoming U.S. citizens from 1882 through 1943, and stopped most Chinese from even entering the country starting in 1882. Forbidden Citizens recounts this long and shameful legislative history. Congress passed restrictive legislation between 1879 and 1904. The most notorious was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, described as “one of the most vulgar forms of barbarism,” by Rep. John Kasson (R-IA) in 1882.
These laws were targeted not only at immigration, they banned citizenship, even for legal immigrants who had arrived before the gate was closed in 1882. Barred from becoming voters, the Chinese had no political recourse against repeated discrimination.
Because their appearance and lifestyle were so different, it was easy to tyrannize the Chinese. Insisting that the Chinese could not assimilate into American culture, lawmakers actively blocked them from doing so. Democrats and Republicans alike found the Chinese easy prey.
For the first time, this book assembles the complete legislative history of Congress’s Chinese exclusion.