The McCreary Amendment made unncessary the wholesale deportation of Chinese persons from the United States and marked a significant change in U.S. immigration policy by requiring for the first time that photographic identification be included on all registration certificates.
The Geary Act passed in 1892 was much harsher than the original Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. In addition to extending exclusion, the Geary Act required that all Chinese laborers register for certificates of residence that proved their right to remain in the United States. The Chinese community organized extensive opposition to the law. They refused to register and challenged the constitutionality of the Geary Act in the U.S. Supreme Court. To avoid immediate massive Chinese deportation, the Senate passed the McCreary bill, proposed by Representative James B. McCreary, into law on November 3, 1893, extending the required registration time for six more months. The bill stipulated that after that time, a Chinese person could be held without bail pending deportation.
The McCreary Amendment required compliance by Chinese persons who resided in the United States prior to its passage who sought reentry into the United States. It defined laborers to include merchants, laundry owners, miners, and fishers. Although the McCreary Amendment received little historical attention, it significantly changed existing immigration policy by requiring photographs on all identity certificates. This was the first statutory requirement for photographic identification on immigration documentation and remained part of subsequent immigration policy.
Cassel, Susie Lan, ed. The Chinese in America: A History from Gold Mountain to the New Millennium. Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 2002. Lee, Erika. At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
Chinese Exclusion Cases
Geary Act of 1892
Gresham-Yang Treaty of 1894