The Chinese Exclusion Example: Race, Immigration, and American Gatekeeping, 1882-1924
By: Erika Lee
"Defining and historicizing America's gatekeeping tradition clearly begins with Chinese immigration in the American West during the late nineteenth century. While Andrew Gyory has persuasively argued that the adoption of the anti-Chinese movement by national partisan politicians led to the actual passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, it was in California in the 1870s that politicians and anti-Chinese activists first began to talk about "closing America's gates" for the first time. Explicit in the arguments for Chinese exclusion were several elements that would become the foundation of American gatekeeping ideology: racializing Chinese immigrants as permanently alien, threatening, and inferior on the basis of their race, culture, labor, and aberrant gender relations; containing the danger they represented by limiting economic and geographical mobility as well as barring them from naturalized citizenship through local, state, and federal laws and action; and lastly, protecting the nation from both further immigrant incursions and dangerous immigrants already in the United States by using the power of the state to legalize the modes and processes of exclusion, restriction, surveillance, and deportation."