The door to the Chinese American dream was finally
slammed shut in 1882, when Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion
Act. This act was the first significant restriction on free immigration
in U.S. history, and it excluded Chinese laborers from the country
under penalty of imprisonment and deportation. It also made Chinese
immigrants permanent aliens by excluding them from U.S. citizenship.
Chinese men in the U.S. now had little chance of ever reuniting
with their wives, or of starting families in their new home.
For all practical purposes, the Exclusion Act,
along with the restrictions that followed it, froze the Chinese
community in place in 1882, and prevented it from growing and
assimilating into U.S. society as European immigrant groups did.
Later, the 1924 Immigration Act would tighten the noose even further,
excluding all classes of Chinese immigrants and extending restrictions
to other Asian immigrant groups. Until these restrictions were
relaxed in the middle of the twentieth century, Chinese immigrants
were forced to live a life apart, and to build a society in which
they could survive on their own.
about exclusion in California, visit The
Chinese in California, 1850-1925: Exclusion.