Immigration history of Asian Americans

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Asian Americans having historically been in the territory that would become the United States since the 16th century have experienced difficulties in the past in immigrating to, and becoming naturalized citizens. This article lists legislation, as well as judicial rulings, which restricted and expanded immigration from Asia.


Judicial rulings[edit]


Immigration trends of recent decades have dramatically altered the statistical composition and popular understanding of who is an Asian American. This transformation of Asian America, and of America itself, is the result of legislation such as the McCarran–Walter Act of 1952 and the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965. The McCarran–Walter Act repealed the remnants of "free white persons" restriction of the Naturalization Act of 1790, but it retained the quota system that effectively banned nearly all immigration from Asia (for example, its annual quota of Chinese was only fifty). Asian immigration increased significantly after the 1965 Immigration Act altered the quota system. The preference for relatives, initially designed to reduce the number of Asian immigrants, eventually acted to accelerate their numbers.

Historically, before 1965, Asian Americans were chiefly perceived as members of the two most numerous Asian ethnic groups, specifically Chinese and Japanese. Filipinos were increasingly numerous in the US, having become colonial subjects in 1898 due to the Spanish–American War (also see Philippine–American War).

After the enactment of the 1965 Immigration Act, Asian American demographics changed rapidly. This act replaced exclusionary immigration rules of the Chinese Exclusion Act and its successors, such as the 1924 Immigration Act, which effectively excluded "undesirable" immigrants, including Asians. The 1965 rules set across-the-board immigration quotas for each country. It opened US borders to immigration from Asia for the first time in nearly half a century.

Immigration of Asian Americans were also affected by U.S. war involvement from the 1940s to the 1970s. In the wake of World War II, immigration preferences favored family reunification. This may have helped attract highly skilled workers to meet American workforce deficiencies. Another instance related to World War II was the Luce–Celler Act of 1946, which helped immigrants from India and the Philippines.

The end of the Korean War and Vietnam War and the "Secret Wars" in Southeast Asia brought a new wave of Asian American immigration, as people from Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia arrived. Some of the new immigrants were war brides, who were soon joined by their families. Others, like the Southeast Asians, were either highly skilled and educated, or part of subsequent waves of refugees seeking asylum. Some factors contributing to the growth of sub-groups such as South Asians and mainland Chinese were higher family sizes, higher use of family-reunification visas, and higher numbers of technically skilled workers entering on H-1 and H-1B visas.

The contrasts between Japanese Americans and South Asian Americans are emblematic of the dramatic changes since the immigration reforms of the mid-20th century. Japanese Americans are among the most widely recognized of Asian American sub-groups. In 1970, there were nearly 600,000 Japanese Americans, making it the largest sub-group, but historically the greatest period of immigration was generations past. Today, given relatively low rates of births and immigration, Japanese Americans are only the sixth-largest Asian American group. In 2000, there were between 800,000 and 1.2 million Japanese Americans (depending on whether multi-ethnic responses are included). The Japanese Americans have the highest rates of native-born, citizenship, and assimilation into American values and customs.

Ethnic Chinese immigration to the United States since 1965 has been aided by the fact that the United States maintains separate quotas for Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. During the late 1960s and early and mid-1970s, Chinese immigration into the United States came almost exclusively from Taiwan creating the Taiwanese American subgroup. A smaller number of immigrants from Hong Kong arrived as college and graduate students. Immigration from Mainland China was almost non-existent until 1977, when the PRC removed restrictions on emigration leading to immigration of college students and professionals. These recent groups of Chinese tended to cluster in suburban areas and to avoid urban Chinatowns.

In 1990, there were slightly fewer South Asians in the U.S. than Japanese Americans. By 2000, Indian Americans nearly doubled in population to become the third largest group of Asian Americans, with increasing visibility in high-tech communities such as the Silicon Valley and the Seattle area. Indian Americans have some of the highest rates of academic achievement among American ethnic groups. Most immigrants speak English and are highly educated. South Asians are increasingly accepted by most Asian organizations as another significant Asian group. Currently, Indians, Chinese, and Filipinos are the largest Asian ethnic groups immigrating to the United States.

Some assert that high rates of immigration from some parts of Asia -especially those countries with poor economic bases- will make Asian Americans increasingly representative of some portion of the continent itself.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chin, Gabriel J., (1998) UCLA Law Review vol. 46, at 1 "Segregation's Last Stronghold: Race Discrimination and the Constitutional Law of Immigration"
  2. ^ "Japanese Americans in America's Wars: A Chronology". Japanese American National Museum. Retrieved 28 November 2009. 
  3. ^ Robinson, Greg (2001). By order of the president: FDR and the internment of Japanese Americans. Harvard University Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-674-00639-3. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  4. ^ Ashley Braa; Alice Lowrie. "1946 Alien Fiancées and Fiancés Act". US immigration legislation online. University of Washington Bothell. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Niiya, Brian (1993). Japanese American history: an A-to-Z reference from 1868 to the present. Japanese American National Museum. New York, New York: VNR AG. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-8160-2680-7. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  6. ^ Zeiger, Susan (2010). Entangling alliances: foreign war brides and American soldiers in the twentieth century. New York: NYU Press. p. 299. ISBN 978-0-8147-9717-4. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  7. ^ Bonus, Rick (2000). Locating Filipino Americans: ethnicity and the cultural politics of space. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-56639-779-7. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  8. ^ "20th Century – Post WWII". Asian American Studies. Dartmouth College. Retrieved 27 April 2011. Filipino Naturalization Act grants US citizenship to Filipinos who had arrived before March 24, 1943. 
  9. ^ "The Journey from Gold Mountain: The Asian American Experience" (PDF). Japanese American Citizens League. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  10. ^ Daniels, Roger (2010). Immigration and the legacy of Harry S. Truman. Kirksville, Missouri: Truman State University Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-931112-99-4. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  11. ^ Gabriel J. Chin, "The Civil Rights Revolution Comes to Immigration Law: A New Look at the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965," 75 North Carolina Law Review 273 (1996)
  12. ^ Judge Advocate General (Navy). (1916). Naval digest, containing digests of selected decisions of the Secretary of the Navy and opinions of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. pp. 237–38. 
    The Federal Reporter: Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit and District Courts of the United States. West Publishing Company. 1918. pp. 769–773. 
    "Status of Filipinos for Purposes of Immigration and Naturalization". Harvard Law Review (Harvard Law Review Association) 42 (6): 809–812. April 1929. doi:10.2307/1330851. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 

External links[edit]