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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Immigration
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Immigration Chinese
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Exclusion

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.

For more about exclusion in California, visit The Chinese in California, 1850-1925: Exclusion.



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