From their arrival during the Gold Rush, the Chinese experienced discrimination and often overt racism, and finally exclusion. Action often in the form of legislation was used against Chinese immigrants and started as early as the 1850 Foreign Miners’ License Tax law.

In 1854 the California State Supreme Court categorized Chinese with Blacks and Indians, denying them the right to testify against white men in courts of law.

During the 1870s, an economic downturn resulted in serious unemployment problems, and led to more heightened outcries against Asian immigrants. Racist labor union leaders directed their actions and the anger of unemployed workers at the Chinese, blaming them for depressed wages and lack of jobs, and accusing them of being morally corrupt.

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The Wasp, v. 15, July - Dec. 1885 -- 'The Chinese : Many Handed But Soulless' [cover], The Bancroft Library
 

As a consequence of this hostility, local and statewide restrictions continued to be enforced against the Chinese. Eventually, the United States government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a law that stood in place until its repeal in 1943.

In 1905, construction of an Immigration Station on Angel Island began in the area known as China Cove. Surrounded by public controversy from its inception, the station began operation in 1910.

As the "Ellis Island of the West," it was designed to handle the anticipated European immigrants arriving in California once the Panama Canal was opened. Instead, the majority of immigrants to America via the West Coast came from Asia.

On Ellis Island, immigrants were processed within hours or days; on Angel Island, they spent weeks or months. This facility functioned primarily as a detention center. Although all Asians were affected, the greatest impact was on the Chinese totaling 70 percent of the immigrants detained on Angel Island.

The Wasp, v. 15, July - Dec. 1885 [cover]  
"The Chinese : Many Handed But Soulless"  
The Bancroft Library  

 
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