Through almost an entire century after the first wave of Chinese immigrants to California laid a strong foundation of Asian immigration during the 1850’s, Asian immigrants faced racist legal barriers seeking to exclude them from the United States. After these barriers were lowered during the 1940’s and finally fell in 1965, Asian immigration flourished. By 2007, some 14.5 million people of full or partial Asian descent lived in the United States, accounting for almost 5 percent of the U.S. population, with early twenty-first century trends showing promise of continued growth.
Asian immigration to the United States began in earnest during the mid-nineteenth century, when the
When the first 4,000 Chinese miners arrived in California in 1849-1850, they found significant legal barriers to Asians already in place. As early as 1790, the U.S. Congress limited the right of immigrants to become naturalized U.S. citizens to free white people. The state of California tried to prevent further Chinese immigration by passing laws of its own in 1855 and 1858 that would later be ruled unconstitutional. The 1860 U.S. Census listed Asian residents for the first time. Almost all the 34,933 Asians in the country that the census counted were Chinese living in California; 90 percent of them were male. At that time, they accounted for only 0.1 percent of the entire U.S. population.
Passage of the
In 1869, the first
In 1882, the U.S. Congress passed the infamous
In 1907-1908, a series of
Chinese and Japanese women waiting within an enclosure to be processed at the Angel Island Reception Center during the 1920’s, a period during which very few Asian immigrants were admitted to the United States.
The internment order was the infamous high water mark of anti-Asian U.S. sentiment. The
After World War II ended in 1945, U.S. immigration policy shifted positively toward Asian immigration. In 1946,
Indicative of the 1952 act’s positive effect on Asian immigration, the number of Asian Americans living in the continental United States, which had risen from 254,918 in 1940 to 321,033 in 1950, climbed to 565,443 in the U.S. Census of 1960. As always, the census did not distinguish between citizens and alien residents. Nevertheless, its data offer a valuable tool to measure success of Asian immigration. When
The 1970 U.S. Census showed that 1,538,721 Asian Americans, including 100,179
After communist regimes took power in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos during the mid-1970’s, the composition of Asian immigration to the United States altered significantly. To welcome new Southeast Asian refugees, Congress passed the
The 1980 census also revealed that the number of
During the 1980’s, Asian immigration to the United States doubled the population of Asian Americans, who numbered 7,273,662, or 2.9 percent of the total U.S. population, in 1990. The
The 2000 U.S. Census recognized the increasing national diversity of Asian Americans. For the first time, it listed six different ethnic categories, as well as “Other Asian.” Also for the first time, people could be listed as members of more than one racial or ethnic category, reflecting the growing significance of interracial marriages. The census counted 11.9 million Asian Americans, including 1.7 million people with mixed Asian heritage, or 4.2 percent of the U.S. population.
Asian immigration to the United States continued strongly during the early twenty-first century. In 2007, the
Chan, Sucheng. Asian Americans: An Interpretive History. Boston: Twayne, 1991. Survey of key common dimensions of Asian immigrant experience in America from the 1850’s to 1990. Good, college-level overview of the topic. Photos, maps, chronology, and bibliography. Kim, Hyung-chan. A Legal History of Asian Americans, 1790-1990. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Look at the legal framework for Asian immigration with strong focus on legal control and exclusion during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; discusses how liberalized immigration policy changed patterns of Asian immigration after 1952 and 1965. Bibliography, index. Kitano, Harry H. L., and Roger Daniels. Asian Americans: Emerging Minorities. 2d ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1995. Good, readable introduction. Covers key immigration laws, major Asian immigrant groups, and important events in history of Asian immigration. The last two chapters discuss issues affecting Asian Americans and their communities on the eve of the twenty-first century. Tables, bibliography, index. Lee, Joann Faung Jean, ed. Asian Americans in the Twenty-first Century. New York: New Press, 2008. Collection of twenty-seven oral histories covering a wide range of Asian American immigrant experiences on the personal level. Interviewees came from East and Southeast Asia with backgrounds ranging from professionals to activists, politicians, and homemakers. Their stories illuminate past and contemporary immigration issues. Photos. Novas, Himilce, and Lan Cao. Everything You Need to Know About Asian American History. Rev. ed. New York: Plume, 2004. Written in accessible question-and-answer format, very suitable for middle and high school students. Covers key issues and people. Illustrated. Okihiro, Gary Y. The Columbia Guide to Asian American History. Paperback ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. Comprehensive work with special focus on early Asian American immigration to Hawaii, hostility toward Chinese immigrants in America, internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and contemporary issues of Asian Americans. Illustrated, with detailed bibliography, overview of visual and electronic resources, and index. Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Rev. ed. Boston: Back Bay, 1998. Most widely available, accessible standard work covering major groups and events in the history of Asian immigration to America. Comprehensive survey with an eye for telling individual details, well written. Illustrated, notes, index.
Asian Indian immigrants
Hong Kong immigrants
Pacific Islander immigrants