America 's Gates : Chinese Immigration During The Exclusion Era

1236 Words Aug 21st, 2015 null Page
In her book At America 's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943, Erika Lee convincingly argues that the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act is the start of the United States of America becoming a “gatekeeping” nation, no longer imagining itself as a nation open to all immigrants but instead a nation that carefully monitors who should be allowed to enter America and who should not. Yet Chinese Exclusion did more than simply display American desire to limit the immigration of a specific ethnic group; it created the very concept of “illegal immigrant.” However, this construction was not simply limited to those who entered the country illegally; it disproportionately targeted the Chinese due to their race. The use of racial discourses to justify exclusion by the United States criminalized an entire group of people, the Chinese, as undesirable, inherently criminal, and a threat to the United States, due to their supposed race. The Chinese community in America, even those who entered legally and the native born, could not escape racialized reality that motivated Chinese Exclusion. It is important to understand the centrality of race in immigration exclusion because it reveals the slippage between racism and nativism and xenophobia. Anti-illegal immigration propaganda relied on racialized caricatures of the Chinese, with slanted eyes, queues, and Chinese dress being particularly highlighted. Such propaganda also played on stereotypes of Chinese as cunning and…

Related Documents