Growth and Inclusion
In the first
decades of the new century, Chinese immigrants made slow steps
toward greater inclusion in American life. Although the Exclusion
Act was still in effect, the law did permit Chinese merchants,
diplomats, and students to enter the country. For a time, these
immigrants were even allowed to bring their wives and families.
To take advantage of this loophole, young people often came into
the U.S. by posing as family members of those with merchant status;
these counterfeit family members became known as "paper sons"
and "paper daughters".
of all the legal and practical obstacles, between 1910 and 1940
some 175,000 Chinese immigrants passed through Angel Island Immigration
Station, near San Francisco. At the same time, the growing number
of children born to Chinese Americans helped add to the community's
sense of permanence and stability. Since any child born in America
automatically became a U.S. citizen, many parents bought property
in their children's names, and were thus able to start businesses
and make investments that would otherwise not have been available
As more immigrants
found professional work and achieved financial success, they began
to move out of urban Chinatowns, often to new suburbs or other
outlying neighborhoods. Despite continuing restrictions in immigration,
the Chinese population of the U.S., which had dropped from about
107,000 in 1890 to a low of 61,000 in 1920, began to rise again.
of the Second World War brought Chinese immigrants and their descendants
even further into the mainstream of U.S. society. Japan's brutal
invasion of China led to greater public sympathy for the Chinese
people, and prompted Chinese Americans to register
for the draft, to join in war
industries, and to enlist in record numbers. San Francisco's
Chinatown even built and funded its own pilot-training school
to prepare Chinese American pilots to fight the Japanese air force.
Of the 13,000 Chinese American soldiers who served during the
war, almost half were not U.S. citizens, still barred by the Chinese
Exclusion Act of 1882.
the Exclusion Act was finally swept away, brought down by the
pressures of wartime labor shortages and popular sentiment. Under
new legislation, Chinese immigrants were finally made eligible
for citizenship, and new quotas were set for immigration. Even
greater changes came two years later, when the War Bride Act and
the G.I. Fiancées Act permitted Chinese Americans to bring their
wives into the country. Family life, for centuries one of the
most cherished aspects of Chinese culture, was finally possible
for the Chinese community in the United States.