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Immigration Chinese
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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".

In spite 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 to them.

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.

The outbreak 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.

In 1943, 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.



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