May 6, 1882: The Chinese Exclusion Act is signed into law.
In 1880, the Burlingame Treaty (which had established formal friendly relations between the United States and China) was amended in order to suspend Chinese immigration. Growing anti-Chinese sentiment, mostly resulting from low wages and unemployment, finally led to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. It excluded “skilled and unskilled laborers employed in mining” from entering the country for a ten-year period, and it also prohibited Chinese immigrants from attaining citizenship. The act was controversial, even at the time. Many businesspeople opposed it, resenting the restrictions on their supply of cheap labor; in contrast, most labor unions supported it, with the notable exception being the IWW. And, of course, many Americans supported for simple race-related reasons.
For years, the Chinese-American population remained stagnant, unassimilated, and largely male. The 1943 Magnuson Act finally repealed the Exclusion Act, and it also allowed for the naturalization of some Chinese-Americans already living in the country; at the same time, it restricted the national quota of Chinese immigrants to the negligible amount of 105 per year. Not until 1965 was the outdated national-origins quota system abolished altogether.