pancho, again, you are wrong

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Posted by Lilly from ? ( on Thursday, June 20, 2002 at 12:17PM :

In Reply to: Re: of course posted by panch from ( on Thursday, June 20, 2002 at 9:02AM :

: Child Labor Laws, Womens Sufferage, reforms of the meat packing industry, lower speed limits...all of these things were to get their legislation one day. Being a white Finn from the South, you naturally believe and are of the high moral opinion that the South wasn't THAT BAD...and that the North had its hypocrasies too.

xxx Actually, immigrant Scandinavians fought on the side of the Union. My mother came to this country in the 1970's. I grew up in the South, but most of my friends growing up were minorities. I do not take the side of "the South" so much as I realize that corruption existed on both sides. I'm happy that the Union won the war, but I'm not happy with the political strength the Northern industrialists were given.

xxx You, on the other hand, appear to blindly stand up for Northern capitalists. Remember those railroads?

Asians have been in the U.S. for a long time. Many families are already in their tenth generation here. The history of Asians in the U.S. is the history of dreams, hard work, prejudice, discrimination, persistence, and triumph.

As presented in the excellent PBS documentary series Ancestors in the Americas, the first Asians to come to the western hemisphere were Chinese Filipinos who settled in Mexico. Eventually, Filipino sailors were the first to settle in the U.S. around 1750 in what would later be Louisiana. Later around 1840, to make up for the shortage of slaves from Africa, the British and Spanish brought over slaves or "coolies" from China, India, and the Philippines to islands in the Caribbean, Peru, Ecuador, and other countries in South America.

However, the first large-scale immigration of Asians into the U.S. didn't happen until 1848. Around that time and as you all remember from your history classes, gold was discovered in America. The Gold Rush was one of the pull factors that led many Chinese to come to the U.S. to find their fortune and return home rich and wealthy. However, there were also push factors that drove many to want to leave China. The most important factor was economic hardship due to the growing British dominance over China, after Britain defeated China in the Opium War of 1839-1842.

In addition to prospecting for gold in California, many Chinese also came as contract laborers to Hawai'i to work in sugarcane plantations. While in California, Chinese miners experienced their first taste of discrimination in the form of the Foreign Miner Tax. This was supposed to be collected from every foreign miner but in reality, it was only collected from the Chinese, despite the multitude of miners from European countries there as well. When some Chinese miners objected and refused to pay the unfair tax, they were physically attacked and even murdered. Eventually, the Chinese went to court to demand equal treatment.

The Chinese also worked as small time merchants and starting in 1865, as railroad workers on the famous Transcontinental Railroad project. The project pitted the Union Pacific (working westward from Nebraska) and the Central Pacific (working eastward from Sacramento) against each other for each mile of railroad track laid. At its peak, 12,000 Chinese worked for the Central Pacific in some of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs. About 1,000 Chinese died during the project as a result of avalanches and explosive accidents as they carved their way through the Sierra Mountains.

The project was completed in 1869 and a famous ceremony was staged where the two railroad lines met in Promontory Point, Utah. You might have seen the famous photograph were everybody posed in front of two train engines facing each other. Perhaps not too shocking, the Chinese workers were forbidden from participating in the ceremony, even though without their work and their lives, the project may never have been completed.

After the completion of the railroad and as they returned to California, the Chinese increasingly became the targets of racial attacks and discriminatory legislation because their labor was no longer needed and Whites began seeing them as an economic threat. This anti-Chinese movement, which was accompanied by numerous anti-Chinese riots, lynchings, and murders (including Tacoma, Washington and most famously at Rock Springs, Wyoming), culminated with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This act barred virtually all immigration from China and prevented all Chinese already in the U.S. from becoming U.S. citizens, even their American-born children. For the first time in U.S. history, a specific ethnic group was singled out and forbidden to enter the U.S.

Because they were forbidden from owning land, intermarrying with Whites, owning homes, working in many occupations, getting an education, and living in certain parts of the city or entire cities, the Chinese basically had no other choice but to retreat into their own isolated communities as a matter of survival. These first Chinatowns at least allowed them to make a living among themselves.

This is where the stereotypical image of Chinese restaurants and laundry shops, Japanese gardeners and produce stands, and Korean grocery stores began. The point is that these did not begin out of any natural or instinctual desire on the part of Asian workers, but as a response to prejudice, exclusion, and institutional discrimination -- a situation that still continues in many respects today.

The Chinese led the way into America, but other Asian groups soon followed. Like the Asian American population as whole today, the experiences of these other early Asians had some similarities and differences with that of the Chinese.

The next Asian group to come to the U.S. in large numbers were the Japanese. They initially came to Hawai'i as cheaper replacements for Chinese workers beginning around 1890. In Japan's case, they also experienced economic and military domination by the west, which began when Admiral Matthew Perry famously sailed into Tokyo Bay in 1853 with his "black ships," threatening war if Japan did not open itself up for trade with the west. As a result, Japan's economy became dependent on the west and ordinary citizens struggled to survive economically.

But unlike workers from China, Japanese workers were actively recruited to work in Hawai'i and the U.S. and were initially closely supervised by the Japanese government to insure that they were doing well. Also unlike the Chinese, Japanese workers were mainly concentrated in agricultural jobs. However, once again, the Japanese eventually received the same type of discriminatory treatment the Chinese had received earlier, which culminated in 1907 Gentlemen's Agreement. Japan agreed to stop issuing passports for Japanese workers to go to the U.S., even though this did not seriously reduce the amount of Japanese immigrants coming into the U.S.

Nonetheless, the Japanese were subjected to the same discriminatory laws and prejudices that the Chinese endured earlier, including restrictions on their rights to own land and become citizens. Also like the Chinese, the Japanese did not sit idly by while they were being discriminated against. In fact, history shows that, in addition to filing federal court cases, they organized many demonstrations and strikes, led many boycotts, published many books and essays, and enlisted the support of many sympathetic whites.

These actions taken by the Chinese and Japanese to fight for their rights demonstrates an incredible determination to not only become citizens of the U.S., but to try to assimilate into U.S. society as best as possible. In other words, they wanted to be as American as everybody else. They were consistently denied that opportunity, but they fought as hard as possible for their rights to be treated fairly and equally.

Eventually, other Asian groups followed the Chinese and Japanese into the U.S., such as the Koreans and Filipinos. Only about 7,000 Koreans came to the U.S. before 1951, and they also mainly worked in the sugarcane plantations of Hawai'i. Also, approximately 130,000 Filipinos came to the U.S. before 1935. They were helped by the legal status as U.S. territory residents and yes, they too worked mainly in agriculture. During this period before 1940, these Asian groups tried as best as they could, given the restrictions placed upon them, to make a living for themselves and to become as integrated into American life as possible. However, everything changed when World War 2 started.

The U.S.'s treatment towards Asians became more extreme, for better and for worse, once the war began. For the Japanese of course, it became a nightmare. After the Japanese navy attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, it set off an overwhelming wave of racism, prejudice, and ignorance. Combined with falsified reports of espionage and lobbying by White farmers in California this racist paranoia culminated in President Roosevelt issuing Executive Order 9066.

This effectively revoked the rights of Japanese Americans as U.S. citizens and eventually led to about 120,000 Japanese Americans being rounded up and thrown into prison camps in 9 states. The lives of Japanese Americans were devastated -- not only were their economic lives destroyed, their emotional security was shattered, but their cultural traditions were severely damaged as well.

Every Japanese American who was imprisoned was eventually forced to prove their loyalty by answering two questions -- (1) whether or not they would be willing to be drafted to fight in the war or volunteer as a nurse and (2) whether they would swear to obey all the laws of the U.S. and not interfere with the war effort. Even though they had just had their rights as American citizens revoked, forcibly imprisoned just because of their ethnic ancestry, and still in a state of collective shock, the overwhelming majority of Japanese Americans answered yes to both questions. If that isn't the ultimate way to prove your patriotism, I don't know what is.

As another example of the unquestionable valor and loyalty of Japanese Americans to the U.S. despite this racist treatment, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a group of Japanese American males drafted from the prison camps, became the most decorated combat unit in the entire U.S. military for their heroic deeds -- seven Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations, a Congressional Medal of Honor, 47 Distinguished Service Crosses, 350 Silver Stars, 810 Bronze Stars, and more than 3,600 Purple Hearts.

On the other hand, after the war began, Chinese Americans and to a lesser extent, those of Korean, Filipino, and South Asian descent, were beginning to be portrayed in a much more positive light. For example, a 1942 Gallup poll characterized the Chinese as "hardworking, honest, brave, religious, intelligent, and practical." The U.S. was feeling so charitable that in 1943, it revoked the provisions of the Chinese Exclusion Act passed 61 years earlier.

This finally gave Chinese residents the right to be naturalized citizens. Before 1942, Chinese Americans were generally seen as strange and even evil. Less than a year later, they were now hardworking, honest, and brave. Why? Because the U.S. government decided to portray them that way since China was now the U.S.'s wartime ally.

However, after the war finally ended in 1945, the US's attitudes towards the Japanese and Chinese once again flip-flopped. After the communists took control, China became the evil enemy while Japan, rebuilding under the direction of the U.S. military, was seen as hardworking, friendly, and intelligent. Reflecting this change of opinion, Japanese Americans officially received the right to become naturalized U.S. citizens in 1952.

For several decades after the war ended, most of the Japanese American community just wanted to get on with the task of rebuilding their lives and to forget their imprisonment experience. However, in 1978, the Japanese American Citizens League officially asked Congress to investigate whether the imprisonment during World War II was unjustified and wrong. A bipartisan commission conducted extensive research and finally concluded that the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II was a "grave injustice" and resulted from "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."

In 1987, the House of Representatives passed a "redress" bill that included an official apology to Japanese Americans and compensated $20,000 to each person who was imprisoned who was still alive. The Senate later passed the bill in 1988. However, it was not until 1993 that the first payments were made. Nonetheless, this redress movement became a very important and proud achievement for the Japanese American and larger Asian American communities. It showed that the Asian American community could be mobilized to fight for fair and equal treatment and in this case, justice.

For the 20 or so years after the war, the entire Asian American population tried to rebuild their lives, develop their communities, and tried to assimilate as best as possible. It helped that the U.S. was experiencing a huge economic boom, which not only provided these Asian American groups with new opportunities, but also gave the native White population enough opportunities as well so that they didn't see Asian Americans as threats. However, a new and important piece of legislation was passed in 1965 that again fundamentally changed the landscape of Asian America.

The trauma of World War 2 was now over. A new period of rebuilding and expansion was taking place, for both the U.S. as a whole and the Asian American community in particular. A new law would significantly affect this process and once again change the landscape of Asian America.

During the early 1960s, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson wanted policies that could be used as a psychological tool against communism in the Cold War. This would be combined with President Johnson's "Great Society" anti-poverty and civil rights policies and therefore designed to show the rest of the world that the U.S. was indeed the land of equal opportunity, as opposed to the totalitarian oppression of communist countries.

This led to the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act. The Act abolished the restrictive national origins system originally passed in 1920 in favor of a quota and preference system. Priority was now given to "family reunification" so that U.S. citizens and permanent residents could sponsor the following types of immigrants in this order of preference:

Unmarried children under 21 years of age of U.S. citizens
Spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents
Professionals, scientists, and artists "of exceptional ability"
Married children over 21 years of age and their spouses and children of U.S. citizens
Siblings and their spouses and children of U.S. citizens
Workers in occupations with labor shortages
Political refugees

The third and sixth preferences would have to be verified and approved by the U.S. Department of Labor. Each country in the eastern hemisphere was given a quota of 20,000 but children under 21, spouses, and parents of U.S. citizens were exempt from this quota.

These preferences were structured to encourage U.S. citizens already in the U.S. to sponsor their other family members as new immigrants. At first, the U.S. government did not expect a large increase in Asian immigrants because there weren't enough Asians in the U.S. to matter. At the time, Asian Americans were only 0.5% of total U.S. population. Therefore, U.S. officials expected immigration from Europe to account for the vast majority of these new immigrants.

However, as it turned out, because most European immigrants had come to the U.S. much earlier than Asians, there weren't many immediate family left in Europe to reunite. Also, Europe was experiencing its own post-war economic boom, so there was little incentive for Europeans to immigrate elsewhere. On the other hand, Asian Americans and Asian immigrants, being very adaptable, saw this as a great opportunity to bring over family members, if they were U.S. citizens.

The first Asians to immigrate to the U.S. under the provisions of this Act were mainly professionals. Because it takes about 7 years to become a U.S. citizen (I know from personal experience), beginning in the early 1970s, immigration from Asian countries began to skyrocket because by then, those who had applied for citizenship when they first arrived in the U.S. back in the mid and late 1960s were now becoming citizens and were using this the family reunification provisions to their fullest advantage.

From 1971 to 1998 (the latest year in which full statistics are available), about 19,427,440 immigrants have come to U.S. -- 6,674,086 of them (or about 34.4%) are from Asia:

Area of Origin
# of Immigrants
1971 - 1998
% of All Immigrants
1971 - 1998



Europe & Soviet Union


Central & South America

Of these six and a half or so million Asian immigrants, the following Asian groups have sent the most immigrants to the U.S. and their percentage of all immigrants from Asian between 1971 and 1998, again according to the 1998 I.N.S. Statistical Yearbook (keep in mind that this is not a measure of each group's total population, just the number of immigrants who came between 1971 and 1998):

Asian Ethnic Group
# of Immigrants
1971 - 1998
% of All Immigrants
from Asia, 1971 - 1998




Asian Indians


Altogether, 60.6% of all Asian Americans are immigrants, according to the 2000 census. These immigrants have revitalized many urban cities from run-down ghettos into thriving ethnic communities. Examples can be found all over New York, Los Angeles -- almost every major U.S. metropolitan area has experienced these notable contributions of Asian immigrants.

What we need to keep in mind is, being an immigrant does not mean a person is not an American. These immigrants from Asia have contributed economically and culturally to not only their own ethnic communities here in the U.S. but also to the entire Asian American population, and to that of our entire country.

-- Lilly
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