Japanese immigrants began arriving in small numbers during the 1890’s, but it was not until the twentieth century that organized political groups formed against them, mostly in California. Japanese immigrants began arriving in large numbers in California around 1900, alarming local citizens who feared the “yellow peril” and causing nativist political groups to pressure the government to restrict future immigration and to restrict the Japanese to their own schools and neighborhoods.
Although the Japanese were excellent workers and became one of the most successful immigrant groups in America, many native-born Americans resented their presence in the United States. A wide range of political organizations and activist groups formed coalitions to push for laws restricting the rights of Japanese immigrants and their children at the local, state, and federal levels. Some American workers believed that the Japanse were taking away jobs that belonged to Americans. The movement was successful in influencing the passage of anti-Japanese legislation beginning in the early twentieth century, peaking with the official exclusion of all Japanese immigrants from the United States in 1924. These restrictions were not lifted until passage of the
Racist attitudes and fear of foreign workers caused Americans to band together and form several anti-Japanese groups in the early twentieth century. The first and most significant anti-Japanese group was the
In 1907, President
The AEL and the IRL continued to pressure the federal government to pass new laws restricting Japanese immigration during the 1910’s and 1920’s. For example, these anti-Japanese groups wanted to pass a law requiring that immigrants be able to read English, which many of the Japanese were unable to do. The AEL argued that Japanese workers sent their earnings back home instead of spending their money in the United States. Moreover, they believed that Japanese workers were willing to accept lower wages and unsafe working conditions. The state of
The anti-Japanese movement resulted in laws that prevented immigrants from becoming legal residents, owning land, or owning a business, but the combined effect did not diminish the success of the Japanese. The Japanese tended to live in segregated communities, and they combined their resources to set up their own savings and loans and banks to offer assistance to businesspeople and farmers. The anti-Japanese laws were aimed at preventing future immigration, but they did not affect the children of Japanese born in the United States, who were legally U.S. citizens. Racist and nativist groups such as the IRL and the AEL mounted a fierce resistance, and the
Curran, Thomas J. Xenophobia and Immigration, 1820-1930. Boston: Twayne, 1975. A cogent history of immigration and anti-immigrant sentiment. Daniels, Roger. Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States Since 1850. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988. A well-researched overview of Chinese and Japanese Americans from 1850 to 1980. Hatamiya, Leslie T. Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and the Passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1993. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 granted reparations to Japanese Americans who had been interned during World War II. The author provides an immense amount of detail on the events leading to its passage. Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Boston: Little, Brown, 1988. A popular history of Asian Americans that draws upon a variety of primary sources, from newspapers to court cases.
Alien land laws
Asiatic Exclusion League
Japanese American Citizens League
Japanese American internment
“Yellow peril” campaign