The concept of immigration has always been deeply engraved in American history. This is because the composition of the US citizenry is barely present without consideration for all the foreign nationals who left their homes and relocated to this great nation for one reason or another. Generally, one may confidently state that the US is a nation of immigrants where practically everyone came from somewhere else at some point in their history. With more than a sizeable number of immigrants entering the country each year, it is simply not possible to consider American history without acknowledging the presence and influence of immigrants from various parts of the world. The Chinese are a significant part of this population and their immigration history can be divided into three major time periods namely 1849-1882, 1882-1965, and 1965-present. Like any other community in the US, Chinese migration into the United States has been fuelled by several factors including economic, security and adventure reasons.
This was the first phase of Chinese immigration to the US, and the immigrants were mostly young single men willing to leave their homes in China for the American West. This was soon after the California Gold Rush, meaning that there were so many new opportunities for wealth creation within the US at the time (Crawford & Benjamin 26). This is why most of the immigrants came with the hope of getting jobs and saving up so that they could go back to China to start families and live comfortably. Considering the US as The Gold Mountain, these young male peasants were looking to get rich before they could go back to their rural villages and live their dream. It can be appreciated that among other things, opportunity has always been a great motivation for the immigrant population in the US. Initially, the Chinese immigrants coming to the US at this time were mainly laborers in various job positions. They worked in manufacturing plants, built railroads, reclaimed swaps, worked in the fishing industry and the agricultural sector and generally handled most of the manual labor in the US including construction of irrigation systems and extraction of metal. They were basically looking for all the kind of work that the rest of the population found too tasking or too physically involving. This gave them a sense of job security since these became known as jobs for the Chinese. With time however, they started establishing their own businesses as well and stopped competing for manual jobs. Regarding their influence on the US, it can be appreciated that these immigrants were very hard working. They were able to do a lot for the American economy by providing cheap labor and generally developing significant industries within the American economy.
In 1882, there was a legal limitation to the influx of Chinese immigrants to the US and only diplomats, students and entrepreneurs along with their families were allowed into the US (Spickard 19). This meant that no more Chinese laborers would be able to travel to the US to look for work. The Chinese immigrants in the US at the time were not as free either. They were mostly confined to specific neighborhoods and they would barely have democratic rights. They were severely segregated against. This, and the new laws, managed to deter a lot of Chinese citizens from traveling to the US. The ones who had the means and legal backing to go there were either wealthy or in government. They were able to get into the US legally, could access decent accommodation, and were mostly treated with consideration. Their main contribution to the US was also economic. Students were generally increasing the country’s revenue in terms of tuition and accommodation fees, while merchants brought in a lot of good business to the Americans. And while there was some smuggling and drug trade, it can still be noted that the merchants were very important to the US economy at the time. Not only did they bring in foreign goods, but they also bought a lot of local merchandise to sell back home in China and the rest of Asia. This means they opened up the US business sector to their part of the world. As for the diplomats, it can be appreciated that they too were very significant in shaping the history of the US. They worked to bridge the gap between the US and China, allowing these two countries to work together on a number of relevant issues despite their underlying and rather persistent differences. And while most of the diplomats and their families were able to live lavishly within the US at the time, they contributed significantly to the final recognition of Chinese immigrants in the American legal system.
In 1965, the Civil Rights Act and the Immigration and nationality Act brought a new dawn to Chinese immigration (Crawford & Benjamin 38). These two pieces of legislation restored the rights and the dignity of the Chinese immigrants in the US. This implies that the Chinese Americans could be recognized as citizens of the US, and they were able to escape the racial oppression that they had been subjected to since the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 (Spickard 53) . As such, the Chinese were now able to live freely, find work and even socialize within the country. They were also able to bring in their families from China since the country had once again become safe for them. It can be noted that after 1965, there have been a number of different kinds of Chinese immigrants coming in to the US (Spickard 58). First, there were those who were coming to reunite with their families. Mothers who were finally bringing their children and coming to join their hard working husbands, mothers and fathers who were coming to live with their grown up sons, and young wives coming to start a new life with their husbands after being separated too soon after getting married, among others.
Generally, families were able to get back together after years of separation while the men sought wealth in the US. The second group consists of the highly educated Chinese who come looking for work and business opportunities in the US. China may have such high end technology but most of the high paying jobs seem to be in the US. Some Chinese immigrants today are also just trying to get away from the political violence and oppression in their homeland. This means that some of the Chinese immigrants now are seeking refuge from oppressive regimes back home. Lastly, there are the students who come in seeking higher education and they end up settling down in the US. They either like the country or simply opt to take advantage of the countless opportunities that come with hard work and dedication. Mostly, these immigrants contribute to the economy as well as to the social composition of the US.
The US is really a great country, with a rich history that continues to be woven by countless people from different parts of the world. The Chinese immigrants are privileged to be a part of this great nation, and they too have a story to tell regarding how and why they got to the US. And while there are some sad cases of human trafficking and being smuggled into the country, some of the immigrants are very legal and they actually contribute positively to the American economy. And as more immigrants continue to come in, it is important to appreciate that they simply bring in more diversity to the American population.