15 December 2003
In many aspects, the motivations for the Chinese to come to the United States are similar to those of most immigrants. Some came to "The Gold Mountain," and others came to the United States to seek better economic opportunity. Yet there were others that were compelled to leave China either as contract laborers or refugees. The Chinese brought with them their language, culture, social institutions, and customs. Over time they made lasting contributions to their adopted country and became a vital part of the United States population (Immigration Station). Upon hearing the word of gold in California, thousands of Chinese, mostly young male peasants, left their villages in the rural countries to become rich in the American West. Few actually were able to strike it rich, and laws were put on immigrants who tried to strike it rich. The law was a high tax, $10, on miners who were immigrants to discourage them from venturing into the mines. When their pursuit at wealth through the gold mines failed, they then decided to become laborers. They were recruited to extract metals and minerals, construct a vast railroad network, reclaim swamplands, build irrigation systems, work as migrant agricultural laborers, develop the fishing industry, and operate highly-competitive manufacturing industries. During this time, 1890, the Chinese population in the United States was about 110,000. During this great flood of immigrants into the United States, anti-immigrant attitudes and stereotypes began to form (A Brief History). Angel Island
Most immigrants entering the country came through New York, and passed through Ellis Island, the famous immigrant station located in New York harbor. It was necessary to build a new station on the west coast. The new station was to be located 1 mile east of Ayala Cove, in California. This place was called Angel Island, or the “Guardian of the Western Gate.” This set of buildings was primarily set up to control the number of Chinese that entered the United States. It was primarily a detention center, because Chinese were not allowed into the United States, due to the Exclusion Act of 1882 (Immigration Station 1) Figure 1. Shows why it was easier to go to California, rather than to take a longer trip. If going to New York, they might even have to sail around the edge of South America (Gillaspie 1). The Chinese Exclusion Act
Throughout most of 1880s to the 1960s, only Chinese diplomats, merchants, and students and their wives or husbands were allowed to travel to the United States. Others such as peasants and workers were not allowed to enter due to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This Act set a precedent by being the first law to ban a specific group from the country. It included many rules and regulations, including a ban on Chinese laborers entering the country, and punishment for anyone who tried to sneak or transport Chinese into the country. It was impossible to absolutely prevent Chinese immigration from occurring, but America tried its best to limit the number that entered. The shared opinion of many in the United States during this time felt that the Chinese were inferior, for they did not realize the bigger picture and the actual effect that Chinese would have on the United States. The American and the Chinese governments agreed that the immigrants were endangering the government and economy of China. This led them to limit, regulate, or suspend the residency of Chinese in the United States (Archives 2). The only people they could not keep out were the Chinese who already had family in the United States. Many believed the reason the American government decided to adopt this act in the first place, was due to hatred towards Chinese. Governor Greg Bilger of California wrote,”We don’t like these contract “coolie” laborers, avaricious, ignorant of moral obligations, incapable of being assimilated,...