Immigration and Welfare: What’s a Civilized Nation To Do?


The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act

August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law a welfare reform plan that not only changed things for the nation’s citizens, but also for the nation’s immigrants. Title IV of the bill contained the details on the provisions that affected “aliens”.

Title IV opens with the explanation that the basic principle of United States immigration law is self-sufficiency. With that in mind, it declares that aliens living in the U.S are to depend on their own capabilities, sponsors and private organizations to provide the resources for the needs of their families rather than depend on public resources. Despite these premises, the Act acknowledges the fact that aliens have been receiving public benefits at increasing rates. The legislation explains that this is due to inadequate eligibility standards that do not prevent aliens from enrollment in the public benefits system. One of the purposes of this legislation was to reform eligibility rules so that aliens comply with national immigration policy.

For their first five years in America “aliens” are prohibited from receiving any federal benefit. Exceptions to this are immigrants who: need emergency medical care; need short-term disaster relief; qualify for school lunch programs; qualify for Head Start programs; who need immunizations or treatment of a communicable disease; are granted asylum and refugee status; are permanent residents who have worked 40 qualifying quarters contributing to Social Security; are military veterans discharged honorably or are active duty military. Aliens who were receiving federal housing assistance up to the date the new law was enacted are exempt and can maintain their housing benefit.

So, what about immigrants who were currently receiving benefits and now were in a “disqualified” class? Is the government going to suddenly turn off the spigot and immigrant families scramble to adjust their lifestyle to accommodate a sudden loss of income support? Legislators laid out a plan for a transition period for these people. They would have a year to determine what benefit denial they qualified for and prepare for what this would mean for their home budget. Many of these programs required recipients to reapply for benefits on a yearly basis. At such time, disqualified “aliens” would simply be denied their benefit based on the parameters of this welfare reform bill.

Just what were the primary welfare programs this bill was concerned with? They were food stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security temporary assistance for the needy (SSI). The exempt programs, such as school lunch programs, were considered benefits that were “means” based. In order to qualify, not only was the immigrant’s income to be considered, but also the income of the immigrant’s sponsor. This was also required for an immigrant who attempted to qualify for State funded, rather than federally funded, benefits. If it was found that an immigrant had received a Federal or State benefit they would have actually been disqualified from receiving because of a sponsor’s financial means, the Federal and State government can now demand reimbursement from the sponsor.

The overall goal of this welfare reform was to move recipients from a welfare lifestyle to a working lifestyle over a five year period and permanently keep them self-sufficient. It also sought to remove from recipient status those who were on the dole and shouldn’t be, one such category being the immigrant. Was this goal achieved? Was this goal good for America? In 1994 the U.S. welfare system logged 14.4 million caseloads. Five years later, these caseloads had dropped to 5.3 million. The gringa thinks it’s safe to say, “Mission accomplished! Way to go President Bill Clinton! Umm, maybe.”

Why maybe? You see, many of these families were not actually completely self-sufficient. They simply moved from government generated income to the status of low-income. Single mothers especially were affected by this, becoming even poorer than when they were receiving benefits. As these families lost their Medicaid benefit by entering the workforce, they were often faced with employers who did not offer affordable health benefits. A worker supporting three people would not qualify for Medicaid if they earned more than $11,920 (for a family of three) annually. Now, the gringa would like to know who in their right minds thinks a family can afford health insurance and medical bills for three people if they make less than, say, about $70,000? Washington D.C. was way off base deciding this number was the qualifying poverty line.

Families that were accustomed to a housing benefit that kept their rent very low, were suddenly faced with paying full market rate for the roof over their head. That could mean, for a family that was earning $11,920.01, a penny above the qualifying poverty line, their rent could go from $200 to $700. You tell the gringa if you honestly think these poor, working class people could afford such a thing? Many could not. Remember, they also still had to pay their electricity bill. Sheesh. What was Congress thinking? The problem was not in the legislation itself. The problem was with what Congress thought the economic threshold of “poverty” should be. This presented the nation with a demographic that still was in dire need of public assistance.

So, although welfare was definitely reformed and got a lot of people off the government dole, a whole other problem was created. More families and disabled people simply became impoverished. Many of these people worked but did not earn a living wage. So, for the many anti-immigrant xenophobes out there who thought it was the immigrants who poured across the border and stole American jobs, the gringa will tell you to look at the numbers. From 1996 until 2001 it was not the immigrants filling these low paying positions. It was former welfare recipients, about 9 million to be exact.

So, if you want to measure success by the caseload numbers, yeah, Clinton achieved his goal. However, if you want to measure success by comparing quality of life before and after, it’s a different story altogether. Consider that most of these transitioned welfare recipients could not work full-time or year round, especially single moms. Many earned minimum wage or just a bit more. Either way, it was not enough to provide a decent standard of living for their families. Once you consider achieving a decent standard of living to be the measure for success, you can see the Clinton administration failed miserably. Although welfare enrollment declined, the numbers of the poverty class increased dramatically.

Consider that the poverty line as established by the government was $11,920 for a family of three. Consider the working single mom that may be making about $8 per hour and working only when her kids are in school because she can’t afford child care. Working eight hours daily, five days weekly, ten months annually (two months off for her kids school summer break), with no days off, she then brings home, on average, $12,000 annually. So, she makes too much to be considered in “poverty” in order to qualify for government benefits, but, you tell me, does she make anywhere near the $30,000 needed to afford the basic necessities for an adult and two children in 1996?

Out of 126 New York City “welfare to work” cases, the average person was earning $7.50 hourly and 58% were supporting their families with their work income. The gringa asks, “How in the hell did they manage?” Nationwide studies reported that most welfare recipients that entered the workplace earned well below poverty level. This was actually good news because they would qualify for means- based Federal and State benefit programs. However, there were plenty more that earned over the poverty level but nowhere near the $30,000 threshold that was the bare minimum for a small family’s basic necessities. Thus, this legislation created a large poverty class in America.

When you check the specific budget cuts, it is easy to see that most of the people affected were immigrants, elderly, disabled and single mothers. These are the nation’s most vulnerable classes of people. What this legislation meant is that poor people who were dependent on government programs to feed and house them and provide medical care actually became poorer, and possibly un-housed, underfed and without health care (unless they showed up at a hospital emergency room; which is exactly what happened, starting a new trend of packed ER’s, but that is fodder for another gringa story).

Social workers who are the ground zero, in the trenches workers and see the direct effect of these programs, criticized this reform. They claimed that by replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, even if a family met all eligibility requirements, there was no assurance that children or parents would receive assistance. This was because oversight of the block grants was performed by individual states. States had their own requirements for eligibility. This meant that some states could deny aid to families with teenage parents or to families where both parents were present in the home, even if they met every Federal qualifier and regardless of their income level, if they had any income at all. Also, once the grant money ran out, states would place applicants on a waiting list for the next Federal funding period.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights had its own criticisms of the reform. They considered that within the welfare system was institutional racism and discrimination. They felt the legislation did not take into consideration the gender gap in wages. Rather than help women on welfare gain meaningful employment, the nation simply cracked down on eligibility requirements.  The government focus was on “work first” without doing anything to level the workforce playing field.

Many welfare recipients whose job and below poverty line wages qualified them for benefits would tolerate discriminatory practices in the workplace out of fear of dismissal and loss of benefits if they filed a complaint. Many immigrants were discriminated against with regard to case management and receiving benefits they qualified for because of language barriers.

To remedy these discriminatory practices, the USCCR recommended that Federal funds should be allocated for enforcement of civil rights among recipients, investigations of allegations of violations and to train caseworkers in how to better adhere to civil rights statutes. They further recommended better data collection on the people registering to qualify for benefits as well as the recipients and that all welfare agencies be subjected to audits with regard to civil rights grievances and compliance. The gringa understands this need but can’t help but think, “Dear God. It cost money to save money simply because some people can’t treat other people right.”

Specifically where immigrants were concerned, the USCCR was concerned with the law prohibiting immigrants from receiving any aid until they had been in the country for at least five years. The living conditions of many of these poor families continued to just get worse. Although, among some groups of people, the immigrant was a favorite target to accuse of entering the country just to live off the backs of taxpayers, this was actually a myth. Prior to 1996, statistics show that immigrant families were greatly outnumbered by citizen families in receiving benefits. This is because most immigrants come to the United States looking for jobs and opportunity, not handouts. As for immigrants that did qualify for aid, many would not accept it for fear of retribution.

The USCCR’s final recommendation regarding immigrants and the 1996 welfare reform was to immediately restore full benefits to immigrants regardless of when they entered the country and regardless of the financial resources of their sponsors. They further recommended that undocumented immigrants, for humanitarian reasons, should at least have access to health care, education and food stamps. To protect their civil rights, it was recommended that language assistance be provided for them throughout every step of the public assistance process.

Although these families may still struggle to feed, house and clothe their families, all is not doom and gloom. As mothers moved into the workforce, many children left in-home care and entered organized formal care. Studies resulted in surprising findings. Many of these children benefited from these environments with increased cognitive development, learning gains, and school readiness. These studies further suggested that the adolescents of these families were more likely to become employed later on when compared to adolescents in welfare dependent homes.

Now that the nuts and bolts of the legislation as well as its aftermath has been covered, the gringa asks, “Who REALLY benefited from this legislation?” The answer? Well, number one, the politician who was pandering to: a. voters with money and influence; and, b. corporations who contributed lots of money to campaigns. How so? Well, think about it. When the labor market is flooded with people looking for jobs, guess what, wages stay low! And that’s EXACTLY what happened, So, this piece of “social” reform was really a cheap labor package for the benefit of big corporations. Remember the economy boom during the Clinton years? Yeah, well, those growing businesses needed workers, and they wanted them as cheap as they could get ’em.

The reality is, if the government wants people to be self-sufficient, they must simply accept the fact that now, as in 1996, wages are too low for many families to escape poverty whether they work forty hours a week or even 60 hours a week. The gringa believes so much more could have been accomplished by simply raising minimum wage standards across the board to a living income level. Anyone who works forty hours weekly should make enough money to keep a roof over their head, feed and clothe themselves and afford healthcare.

For critics who argue that minimum wage jobs are simply entry level jobs for people to use temporarily and then move on to a better paying career level job, the gringa has got news for you. Welcome to the “New America” where 61% of young Americans have a college education, 44% of those college educated people are stuck in low income level jobs earning less than $25,000 annually and half of those have student debt of around $30,000 a year. Raising the minimum wage to a living standard level will not make these people rich, it will make them self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency was, after all, the true goal of this legislation. So, critics, the gringa says, “Quit pointing the finger and start lifting a hand to help these hard working Americans become self-sufficient. Join the cause to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.”

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2015/05/11/the-5-4-unemployment-rate-means-nothing-for-millennials/

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/millennials_report.pdf

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-104hr3734enr/pdf/BILLS-104hr3734enr.pdf

http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Personal_Responsibility_and_Work_Opportunity_Reconciliation_Act_of_1996.aspx

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/1996_Personal_Responsibility_and_Work_Opportunity_Reconciliation_Act

http://www.epi.org/publication/webfeatures_viewpoints_tanf_testimony/

https://www.socialworkers.org/advocacy/welfare/legislation/summary.pdf

http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/prwora/welfare.htm

https://www.facebook.com/Fightfor15?fref=photo

Photo credit: www.slideshare.net

1943 Bracero Appropriations – Immigrant Exploitation, Again, And Again, And Again…


How many times had the United States implemented immigration policies for the purpose of importing cheap labor and things turned out badly because capitalist utopian ideology did not consider the human and civil rights factor?

  • 1798, new residency guidelines create a system where typical natural life span expires before citizenship requirements can be fulfilled; a dirty trick to continue to entice loads of hopeful immigrants to arrive only to be exploited as a working class with no political representation for the rest of their lives
  • 1882 the U.S. evicted Chinese laborers who had been exploited immigrants for decades as a cheap labor class during the California Gold Rush and railroad construction days
  • 1882, hot on the heels of kicking out the Chinese, the U.S. wanted to bar the door to prevent entry to those damn Irish Catholics and troublesome Germans, among other ethnic groups, who were coming over here and stealing all the jobs as well as creating Socialist rabble-rousers out of the working class. The masses of citizens were screaming for higher wages so it was politically expedient to blame the immigrant, wasn’t it?
  • 1888, the Scott Act once again has the U.S. snubbing its nose at the Chinese, kicking out even the diplomats, travelers who were just passing through, and wealthy elites who had previously been acceptable; once again legislators needed to manage the masses for the stability and economic growth of the nation
  • 1907, The Gentlemen’s Agreement, for the purpose of importing cheap Japanese labor, would also eventually go south, just like the same idea ended disastrously every single time the United States made immigration policies based on greed rather than moral racial equality
  • 1924, and here comes the final slap in the face for the Japanese, labor exploitation with no hope of representation due to the naturalization ban. Does anyone wonder, then, about the reasons behind Pearl Harbor? A national grudge was nursed for almost twenty-years before they slapped the U.S. right back.
  • 1943, after getting slapped back by the Japanese, the US goes crawling to the Chinese out of fear they would become allies with Japan. I can hear it now, “Um, please Chinese people, I know the U.S. treated you worse than a pack of ol’ junkyard dogs. We probably even fed our dogs better than we were willing to pay you guys, but, hey, we’re real sorry. We could really use your help over here and, we’ll make it worth your while. Whaddya say?” And, China returned to the fold like a junkyard dog that gets kicked and smacked but still faithfully sits at the feet of its abuser, or like the battered who bail their abusers out of jail and welcome them home. I say to the government of China in 1943, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” If a country exploited and oppressed this gringa then insulted me and kicked me out I WOULD NEVER GO BACK, FOR NO AMOUNT OF MONEY IN THE WORLD! But, I digress. My real question is, if Japan nursed a grudge for twenty years and then delivered a major smack-down such as the United States had not known up until that time, could China still be nursing a grudge and gauging conditions for the perfect moment to eventually give America the come-uppance it deserves for national insults dished out for decades? The gringa says, “Watch your back! It’s happened before. And that’s why treating people with loyalty and respect is a wise policy. You tend to get it in return.”

And that brings us to April 26, 1943 when the nation formalized an agreement that had developed between Mexico and the U.S. through a series of notes between Joseph F. McGurk, Counsel of the American Embassy in Mexico, and Ernesto Hidalgo, of Mexico’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs. With the assistance of Mexico’s Ministry of Labor, the United States’ Farm Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and War Farming Operations within the USDA, the Bracero Agreement opened the gates not only for immigrants from Mexico, but also for all of Central and South America.

The Bracero Agreement outlined what was mandated or what was prohibited in order for these immigrants to enter the nation temporarily and serve as migrant farm labor. These immigrants could not be engaged in military service. They would be entitled to round trip transportation and housing paid for, and provided by, the USDA and participating farms. Braceros were entitled to equal pay. If Braceros were accompanied by children under the age of fourteen, these children were entitled to equal education opportunities just like the children of U.S. citizens. The Mexican government, Mexican Labor Inspectors, and Mexican Consuls had the right to inspect the working conditions of Braseros. Burial service was also included in the act, provided and paid for by the USDA. The gringa wonders if this was indicative of the thought that, just perhaps, these immigrants may be exploited and worked to death. Hmmm, just sayin’, it is curious, isn’t it?

You see, because Mexico was much too docile in this round of negotiation, this program ended up being no better than America’s previous episodes of importing cheap labor. For one thing, farmers didn’t like the government intruding in order to monitor working conditions and wages. The farmers preferred to do things their own way, which usually meant hiring undocumented workers and paying them drastically lower wages. But, with most of the American population diverted to war industry jobs, and all the Japanese detained in internment camps, a labor shortage was created in the lower paying agricultural field. Despite the dissatisfaction of farmers, Roosevelt went ahead with the plan because it was critical to stabilize food sources for the nation, especially during wartime. The nation needed to fill the gap, so the nation decided it would exploit the Mexicans and their southern neighbors.

Roosevelt even whipped out Executive Order No. 8802, written June 25, 1941, to assure civil rights protection of the Braceros. The dear reader jumps for joy and says, “Aha! Aha! Civil rights! Well, well, well, social progress!” The gringa is sorry to disappoint. Don’t get all hopeful that this was proof of Roosevelt having a racial equality agenda in mind. This was more about the success of wartime defense production than civil rights. It was the President wagging his finger at any American who might get some high-and-mighty white supremacist attitude toward the Braceros, or any other people of color, during the critical time of war efforts and production. It was as if Roosevelt was telling these Americans, “Look, behave yourselves! We need this imported cheap labor to win the war!” The Executive Order states “…as a prerequisite to the successful conduct of our national defense production effort, I do hereby reaffirm the policy of the United States that there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin…” Now, in case you didn’t notice, the gringa will point something out to you. It specified “no discrimination” in defense industry and government sector jobs. If you owned the local café and wanted to discriminate, well, by all means please do. Get it? Yes, you must have a very critical eye as you peruse these tricky documents. So, as for Roosevelt, a non-racist he was not, a cunning leader to war time victory, he was.

Now, the term “bracero” is from the Spanish root, “brazo”, which, in English, means “arm”. Yes, I suppose there will be lots of Spanish-speaking immigrant “arms” being employed as a result of this international agreement. I suppose this concession to try to appear more open-minded by using Spanish terminology was supposed to put at ease the nation’s southern neighbors, distracting them from memories of the prior decades of exploitation. I tell ya, the gringa just wants to pull her hair out! How many times will people from other countries fall for this dirty trick America plays? It’s like breaking up with a terrible boyfriend, then, six months later he comes slinking back and the gal thinks, “Oh, I miss him, “ and gets all wobbly in the knees. The next thing ya know they both have black eyes and the girl is saying to herself, “What the hell was I thinking?” When the U.S. starts squirming with the need to import cheap labor, other countries, listen up! The gringa’s gonna give you some advice! Let ‘em squirm til they wet their pants and THEN you’ll be in a position of power to negotiate the best terms possible. Quit selling out your populace for a quick infusion of cash into your anemic economy! Just stop it!

Despite the provisions to prevent discrimination, such things were enforced half-heartedly, if at all. U.S. federal government oversight was minimal and Mexican government oversight was practically non-existent. People wonder, “Why?” The gringa wonders, “Why do you ask?” I mean, hasn’t it become clear that U.S. immigration policies are always motivated by capitalism or national security? It was in the interest of neither motivator to invest time and money to see that these non-citizens were treated right. America’s only interest was how quickly they could fill a bushel basket. Earning an average of about a buck a day, it is easy to see that the Bracero average income was about one sixth the national average that annually ranged between $1800-$2000. Equal wages? Are you kidding me?

And if low wages weren’t bad enough, their own country robbed them of their future retirement because Mexico had its own interests to serve off the backs of these hapless laborers. The act had a provision that 10% of wages would be deposited into a fund managed by Mexico. It was a plan similar to American wage withholding for Social Security. This compensation was never paid back out to Braseros who found themselves poverty ridden and abandoned by both governments when they reached old age. Is it just the gringa, or do my dear readers also have a problem with the United States exploiting a class of people necessary to help the nation win a war, and, in the end, the nation has no sense of loyalty and gratitude for such efforts and let’s these old folks waste away, disrespected and forgotten. America, these people you robbed and turned your back on played a critical role in keeping your people and military fed during the Second World War. Without them the U.S. would have starved and probably be speaking German by now. Good God, how do you say “betrayal” in German? Shame on the United States. Shame on Mexico.

Because of cultural differences, particularly the language barrier, these migrant workers experienced discrimination on the same scale as former slaves. Braseros often saw signs at businesses that read “no Mexicans” right alongside “no Blacks”. Restaurants would serve them in the kitchen, right alongside the nation’s other second-class citizens. The children of Braceros suffered discriminatory practices as their right to education was exercised and they entered U.S. public schools challenged by a language barrier. Los Angeles County responded to this challenge by forming language workshops for teachers to assist Spanish speaking students in their adjustment to English speaking classrooms. Despite good intentions, however, it fell far short of providing the bi-lingual education these students needed. This resulted in generations of Brasero children receiving little, or no education at all despite the fact it was their legal right, and, the gringa believes, the moral duty of a host nation who was exploiting the student’s parent(s) for wartime production in the name of national security. Shame on the United States and shame on Mexico for allowing sub-standard education conditions to continue and never compensate or correct this injustice to innocent children.

At this time in America’s history, lip service was the only attention civil rights issues received. The façade of America as a humanitarian nation protecting civil rights and promoting a culture of equality among all ethnicities was a sham. Supply and demand was what really mattered in a wartime nation that was rationing food and gasoline. Although I’m sure the Mexican Government was aware of this, I don’t believe that this was the bill of goods that was sold to the Braceros, bless their little hearts.

Sources:

http://www.farmworkers.org/bpaccord.html

http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=72&page=transcript

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1943_bracero_appropriations.html

http://www.ccrh.org/comm/moses/primary/bracero.html

http://www1.american.edu/ted/bracero.htm

http://www.ushistory.org/us/51e.asp

http://www.theseamericans.com/civil-rights/california-collection-civil-rights-speeches-social-conditions-of-mexican-american-youth-1943/

Photo credit:  www.oregonhistoryproject.org

1917: The Year I Would Have Been Banned From The U.S.


Chapter 29 of the Second Session of the Sixty-Fourth Congress of the United States of America, February 5, 1917, passed “An Act To regulate the immigration of aliens to, and the residence of aliens in, the United States” (also called the “Asian Barred Zone” if you want to do some research yourself). If I had been alive and not a U.S. citizen at the time this legislation took effect, I would have been among the immigrant hopefuls who would have been banned from entry. I would have been a “defective” person on the “prohibited” list, an “undesirable”.  That’s what this piece of law was all about. The United States was expanding its category of people to discriminate against. Rather than list all the legal rigmarole that are the basic nuts and bolts of the wherefores and heretofores, the gringa will get to the heart of the matter. I will focus on the sections that express the minds and wills of the white majority of the United States in 1917.

Section one defines the term “alien” as any person not a native-born or naturalized citizen of the U.S., but specifically excludes the Native Americans of North America and the Native Islanders of U.S. territories. At this time the Philippine Islands and Hawaii were U.S. territories. Once the term alien was defined, the U.S. could then make it clear who was, and who was not, invited to the party. The following were to be banned from entry into the United States:

  • Idiots (good thing all those legislators got here before 1917)
  • Imbeciles
  • Feeble-minded
  • Epileptics (that would be me)
  • Insane persons
  • Anyone who had a single attack of insanity at any point in their life (that rules out pretty much everyone I know here in the barrio where shit gets real from time to time)
  • Persons with a “constitutional psychopathic inferiority” (At first I thought that must mean psychopaths, until I looked up the definition of those words according to that time period. “Constitutional” means a condition you are born with. “Psychopathic” means regarding the realm of the mind or emotions. “Inferiority” means sub-standard in function, adaptability and self-progress. So, persons who were born with a mind, or set of emotions, that was below average were prohibited.)
  • Alcoholics
  • Paupers
  • Professional beggars
  • Vagrants
  • Persons sick with a contagious disease
  • Persons with a mental or physical defect that would affect the ability to earn a living
  • Convicted felons of moral crimes
  • Polygamists (again, the Mormons)
  • Anarchists
  • Prostitutes
  • Contract laborers
  • Persons likely to become a public charge
  • Persons who had their passage paid for by another party
  • Stowaways
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Asians not originating from a U.S. territory
  • Prior deported persons
  • Illiterates, unless returning residents or immigrating to escape religious persecution

The classifications of some of these people, such as, idiots, imbeciles, beggars, epileptics, feeble-minded, physically defective, etc., became the basis for a following trend in American municipalities to pass what were commonly called “ugly laws”. Not only did the white majority in America want a “white” America, they also wanted a “pretty to look at” America. It remains ironic that these same classes of people who were prohibited from entering the country would often pass by the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, an icon of hope, bearing a plaque which read:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

What a big, fat, American lie. And America’s been lying to everyone since the day the Puritans first set foot on the shores of Plymouth. The immigrants here in my barrio, however, are nobody’s fools. What I find incredibly interesting is that most of my immigrant neighbors are better educated on the true history of America than most native born Americans. Where they got a stiff dose of startling truth in mandatory world studies of their country of origin’s education systems, we native Americans get brainwashed with the propaganda machine our country created to make us good little American boys and girls, isolated from the rest of the world, and puffed up with a sense of superiority. Being a gringa in the barrio is a humbling experience. Especially when I realize that many of my immigrant neighbors were not on my country’s reject list like I, myself, would have been.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/39%20stat%20874.pdf

http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2850&context=jclc

https://books.google.com/books?id=pXW69O5po3AC&pg=PA165&lpg#v=onepage&q&f=false

Photo credit:  en.wikisource.org

Scott Act of 1888, A Dangerous Precedence


From a young age my school drilled into my little gringa head the virtues of the United States and how those virtues are all wrapped up in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. I have been taught that the strength of my country and the legitimacy of my right to liberty are the results of these documents penned by the founding fathers of my country. I hear political pundits and legal eagles claim that these documents are irrefutable, unchangeable, unchallengeable. All my life I have believed that no matter how dark things may seem in my own country that, because we all have the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, in the end, all will come out right. Boy was this gringa wrong. All who pound their political pulpits about our nation being created and determined upon the legal foundation established by these three documents, I tell you the legal validity of these three documents was all shot to hell in 1888.

The Act of 1888, commonly called the Scott Act of 1888, was signed into law October 1, 1888, during the administration of President Grover Cleveland by the First Session of the Fiftieth Congress of the United States. It can be found in the 1064th Chapter and contains four sections that are supplemental to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which modified the terms of the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868. The Burlingame-Seward Treaty opened America’s borders to all Chinese immigrants. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibited immigration of Chinese prostitutes and “coolies”, Chinese laborers who entered under a labor contract. There were many Chinese on American soil lawfully at the time the Scott Act was enacted. However, they were no longer welcome. The Scott Act of 1888 stipulates the following:

  • Sec. 1 – Prohibited entry into the country of any Chinese whether a new arrival immigrant or even if a returning Chinese resident who left with legal resident status before the passage of the act and returned without knowledge that their status had changed. All Chinese with legal residence status, even if they are still within the borders of the U.S., will become illegal at the passage of this act.
  • Sec. 2 – Any certificate issued according to immigration law affected by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 becomes invalid by the passing of this act.
  • Sec. 3 – Taxes and penalties for violation established by past legislation remain in effect.
  • Sec. 4 – Any law contradictory to this act is repealed.

In essence, the United States was making it very clear that Chinese were not welcome and were, in effect, being kicked out of the country and banned from entry. Unfortunately, there were some poor souls who departed America before the passage of this legislation and had no idea that, although they had legal resident status when they left the U.S., they would get their eviction notice when they returned. These were people who had lived and worked here for years. They had built a life here. All of their possessions were here. They had money in the bank here. And, they lost it all without any notice. I believe that to be a serious injustice executed by a country that claims to offer equality and protection to the oppressed of the world and invites them to immigrate and build a life in the great melting pot of the United States of America. What a load of horse crap. You can have the rug pulled out from under you at any time if your skin color is not the right shade or if you are practicing the wrong religion.

Eventually over 20,000 Chinese would be displaced by this law. Exiting the country with legal residence status and proper documentation, they were denied entry upon their return to the U.S. A denial that meant they lost all possessions they had accumulated during the years they had worked and contributed to the country. Another 600 Chinese had left their native country before the passage of this act. In good faith they invested an incredible amount of money and time to hazard a long and dangerous ocean voyage to work in a strange country that had given their homeland favor nation status only to arrive and have the door slammed in their face.

A prime example is the Supreme Court case Chae Chan Ping v. United States, which was decided in favor of the U.S. (big surprise) on May 13, 1889. Ping was a Chinese laborer who had been working and living in San Francisco, California from 1875 until 1887 when he left for China with the intention of returning. When he departed the United States in June of 1887, the passage of the Scott Act was well over a year away. Ping had all the legal documentation he was required to have and innocently returned in September of 1888 and was denied entry and detained aboard the ship he arrived in. He filed a lawsuit that he was unlawfully restrained and denied his liberty. The court ordered he be remanded into the custody of the shipmaster. The United States treated as a criminal a man who had abided by the law as he knew the law. A man who had worked and contributed to the growth and production of our country was treated like a criminal. Why? Because he was a Chinese who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the documents he thought provided a status that would entitle him to rights and protection had been invalidated behind his back.

A Supreme Court Justice who opined on the Chae Chan Ping case stated, “[T]he act is assailed as being in effect an expulsion from the country of Chinese laborers”. I find very troubling this reversal of section five of the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868 which established: “The United States of America and the emperor of China cordially recognize the inherent and inalienable right of man to change his home and allegiance, and also the mutual advantage of the free migration and emigration of their citizens and subjects…”

If immigration was an “inalienable right” and yet was outlawed by U.S. Congress what does that mean for the security of the rest of the American population? Dictionaries define “inalienable right” as meaning a natural law and not one that can be denied by manmade law. This is how it is interpreted and applied when used with regard to the U.S. Declaration of Independence. The inalienable rights of all humanity, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence, are the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Scott Act of 1888 has therefore set a dangerous legal precedence of the power the United States actually wields over what it defines as an “inalienable right”.

In 1868 the United States declared it an inalienable right of man to change his home and freely migrate where he pleases. Twenty years later, motivated by greed and racism, the United States revoked this inalienable right. The Supreme Court of the land supported the position and authority of the United States to do so. The legal precedence has been set. It is actually at the pleasure of the United States government that we get to exercise our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights can be revoked at any time the U.S. government pleases.

As I consider the fickle unfaithfulness of the U.S. government’s policies toward the Chinese, this gringa can only think, “My, my, my, how quickly we forget our roots. The Americans of 1888 obviously do not remember that they descended from uninvited guests who arrived as strangers to this country after a dangerous voyage at sea and were welcomed and fed and cared for by the natives of this land.” I look around my barrio and believe I find much more integrity, kindness and loyalty wrapped up in skin that is darker than my own. I am proud that the people of my barrio have adopted me as one of their own. In the barrio it’s not about skin color, it’s about culture. If you work hard, love greatly and help generously, you are welcome. I thought that’s how it’s supposed to be in America. Sadly, it’s not.

Understand that America is a country that conditions its people to believe the U.S. government is “by the people and for the people” and its purpose is to protect our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s not. The purpose of the U.S. government is to keep the masses manageable so that the country can continue to grow richer and more powerful. If you interfere in that process, you and your “rights” will get the boot out the door.

Sources:

http://everything2.com , The Scott Act of 1888

http://immigrants.harpweek.com, The Chinese American Experience: 1857-1892, Scott Act (1888)

https://supreme.justia.com, The Chinese Exclusion Case 130 U.S. 581 (1889) U.S. Supreme Court

http://dictionary.reference.com, (definition of inalienable right)

http://www.archives.gov, The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

Photo credit:  www.migrationpolicy.org

U.S. Immigration Act of 1882, DO NOT Send Your Tired, Your Poor,Your Wretched


From 1880 to 1930 the immigrant population in the United States doubled. A third of these immigrants were Irish while another third were German. In American history this is known as the “Great Wave”. The racism that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was not reserved for Chinese only. American citizens were equal opportunity racists. They didn’t really like the idea of any more foreigners at all becoming their neighbors. These huge numbers of immigrants inflamed American society to openly express their hostility with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1882.

Hot on the heels of the Chinese Exclusion Act that was signed into law May 6, 1882, the Immigration Act was signed into law just three months later, August 3, 1882. The Forty-Seventh Congress of the United States, Session I, Chapter 376, 1882, specifically entitled the act “An act to regulate Immigration”, created the following changes to current immigration policies which allowed free, white male immigrants, felons convicted of political crimes, all descendants of slaves, and both genders of Chinese immigrants, citizenship eligibility and prohibited from immigration prostitutes and Chinese laborers:

  • Fifty cent tax was levied on every immigrant upon arrival at a U.S. port for the purpose of creating a fund to defray the national expense of regulating immigration
  • Secretary of Treasury was authorized to execute provisions of the act, including support and relief of immigrants who arrive in need
  • Every immigrant is to receive a physical examination and will not be allowed entry if found to be a lunatic, convict, idiot or unable to care for themselves
  • Secretary of Treasury was authorized to create agencies and contract with private companies to aid enforcement of the act
  • Immigrants determined to be convicts (other than political crimes) are to be deported to their country of origin

It sounds like a rather benign piece of legislation. However, when you consider the fact that many of the Irish immigrants were financially destitute as they immigrated to escape starvation from the Great Potato Famine, it is easy to see they would qualify for denial of entry due to being unable to care for themselves. At this time in history many Germans were motivated to immigrate to the New World because of civil unrest at home that resulted in a serious unemployment problem. They, too, would then most likely arrive to a U.S. entry point with little or no money, putting them into the “unable to care for themselves” category as well. This law was not so benign and general as it then seems at first glance.

Once again the gringa has learned what the public school classroom would not teach her. America was really not the hope for the oppressed masses throughout the world that it attempted to portray itself as. The sonnet, “The New Colossus”, written by poet Emma Lazarus, featured on the Statue of Liberty plaque, contains the following words,

“Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome;…

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,”

Unfortunately, the United States is guilty of false advertising. None of that is true, except, maybe the exile part. Convicted felons of political crimes were welcome. But, the poor? Huddled masses of the oppressed desiring freedom? Immigrants considered “wretched refuse” in their native country? The homeless? Heck no, America didn’t want any of them. The image the United States projected was a lie. The only desirable immigrant was one who was intelligent and financially stable, and preferably not Catholic, like those damn Irish.

 

Sources:

http://blogs.census.gov, ‘The “Second Great Wave” of Immigration: Growth of the Foreign-Born Population Since 1970‘, posted February 26, 2014, written by: Elizabeth M. Grieco

http://www.ushistory.org, “Irish and German Immigration”

http://library.uwb.edu, “1882 Immigration Act”

http://www.legallanguage.com, “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)

 

Photo credit: www.slideshare.net


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, The Racist Agenda Behind American Propaganda of Liberty and Equality


After the United States had passed the Fourteenth Amendment on July 9, 1868, declaring that all persons born in the United States are citizens, entitled to equal liberty and protection, then later passed the Naturalization Act of 1870, specifically section 7, declaring all African descendants the right to citizenship, this gringa thought that the U.S. was moving away from creating immigration policies that were motivated by power and greed politics. Unfortunately, the administrations of Presidents Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) and Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) seemed to follow a capitalist economic agenda that profited from racist policies designed to exploit a specific immigrant labor class.

The image the United States portrayed to the world of having the moral high ground as a nation of liberty built on Christian principals was, in reality, a sham to dupe the masses. The passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, along with friendly political conversations between Hayes and a racist national labor party leader, reveal the truth behind the wholesome propaganda America peddled to an unsuspecting China during the time of Reconstruction.

Immigration requirements in effect before the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 were:

  • Eligible for citizenship were free, white, male immigrants, both genders of African descendants of U.S. slaves, and both genders of Chinese peoples.
  • Specifically excluded from immigration were felons (except for political prisoners), prostitutes of all races, and Chinese men, commonly called “coolies”, who immigrated under a labor contract

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was a series of stipulations to affect the conditions of the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868, signed under President Andrew Johnson’s term. That treaty, establishing favored nation status for China, opened up the borders of the United States in order that the Chinese could freely immigrate. In the course of the fourteen years that elapsed between the Treaty and the Exclusion Act, what happened for public sentiment to become so hostile to the Chinese peoples? To understand, we must go back in time seventeen years prior to 1882.

1865 was the year of Union victory over the South in the Civil War. However, this was no time for celebration. The end of the war simply meant that the nation had to be rebuilt. Half of the nation, the South, had been stripped of the labor force that had created its wealth when slavery was abolished. Property values plummeted and vital railroad arteries were damaged. The administration of President Ulysses S. Grant, elected in 1868, would be responsible for overseeing the rebuilding of a nation.

How, then, would the country be able to afford to rebuild? President Andrew Johnson’s great idea was to turn to China and import cheap labor, hence the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868. When Grant took office the following year, his ideas on how to fund the rebuilding of a nation either failed or were exposed for their corruption. One of his first bright ideas was to sign the Public Credit Act in March 1869. Yes, President Grant, let’s solve the problem of not having enough money by paying for goods and services with imaginary money. The gringa thinks Grant might have been a great general, but he obviously never balanced a checkbook.

Later in the same year, Grant would get himself in trouble again by enabling guys, who were already millionaires, to artificially inflate the gold market so they could make themselves some more money. One million dollars in 1869 would be worth about $17.5 million today. Gee, I guess Grant’s buddies, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, were high maintenance if what they already had was not enough so they felt it was okay to rip off a nation of people who were struggling to recover from the destruction of their country. Does the term “war profiteer” come to mind? Yep, it’s nothing new. So, as Grant went along with the plan and the price of gold rose, he ordered the Treasury to sell a big mess of it which then caused the bubble to burst. Wham, take that hard-working Americans scraping to make a dime.

And if that wasn’t a big enough insult to the whole of America that Grant was supposed to be working for, he then got into bed with Union Pacific Railroad during the 1872 re-election campaign, which he needed lots of money to fund. As President, Grant was the leader of the Republican party, thus, whether directly involved or not, he was still accountable for the actions of the other Republicans in office. Oakes Ames, Republican House member from Massachusetts, distributed amongst fellow Congressmen shares of the construction company Credit Mobilier, a company contracted to build a large portion of the Union Pacific Railroad. Ames stated that the stock was “where it will produce the most good to us.” Among the recipients of these shares was the incumbent Vice President, a Vice Presidential candidate, the current Speaker of the House, and future President James Garfield. All being Republican cronies of Grant’s, I find it hard to believe Grant didn’t know how his campaign was being bankrolled.

Shortly after Grant won Presidential re-election in 1872, the railroad building business roared into a construction frenzy. No big surprise there. Unfortunately, this was the catalyst for one of the worst, and longest, economic depressions the U.S. had ever experienced up to that time. The gringa says, “Muchas gracias, Grant.”

Now, what would be the big plan to get all of these angry Americans off the backs of the political leaders? Hmm, how about fanning the flames of a race and labor war? That might do the trick! Seems to me that was the strategy of the Grant administration, and, later, President Rutherford B. Hayes followed his lead. I think, perhaps, presidential thinking went something like this, “So, after reaching out to another nation and selling them on the propaganda that America is the land of the free, where everyone is equal and enjoys equal protection of their liberty, thus tricking them into immigrating so we could exploit them for cheap labor, now we don’t need them for labor anymore. Instead, to get the heat off our backs, we can use them for a scapegoat and get rid of them for good. I mean, after all, we are actually capitalist racists, aren’t we? We don’t really like their kind anyway, do we? I mean, that was how we were able to exploit them in the first place without bad feelings weighing down our conscience, wasn’t it? We made a huge profit, after all, didn’t we?” Yep, that seems to me to be the very line of logic all of America eventually followed thanks to the leadership of President Ulysses S. Grant. What a model of all things American.

In 1868 when the treaty was signed allowing for open immigration of all Chinese, Reconstruction was in full swing but, soon after, the country was beginning to feel the sting of Grant’s cronyism that drove his economic policy. The California Gold Rush was winding down and the Chinese were finding work in the construction of the railroad. Despite the fact that only about .002 percent of the American population was Chinese, they were still blamed for dropping wage rates and all the problems with the American economy. Sounds familiar to the cries heard round the country today about how the undocumented workers are “stealing” all the jobs. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to political disinformation campaigns.

I mean, I see plenty of “for hire” signs and want ads. I’m pretty confident there are enough jobs to go around. If you are having trouble getting a job, rather than poke your finger at an undocumented worker, go take a good hard look in the mirror. If an undocumented worker can travel to another country, not speak the language, and have no legal identification yet still manage to find a job, then why the heck can’t an American citizen, with all the privileges and advantages that goes with such a position, find a darn job? Methinks the problem is NOT with the undocumented worker. But, I digress, back to the Chinese labor problem of the 1880’s.

So, now it’s been established that the country, after the economic distress of the Reconstruction period, is slowly starting to enjoy a little progress. With the construction of the railroad and what that will mean to moving goods across the country, hopes are high for the economy to grow. The racist opportunists in Washington were now primed to get rid of the Chinese so the real Americans could keep the expected future wealth amongst themselves. So, by the time 1878 rolled around and President Grant had been replaced by President Hayes (big difference), how do we know Hayes felt this way? Well, he had a meeting with firebrand, labor leader, Dennis Kearney, who was well known for his passionate racism against the Chinese. This meeting, as well as many of Dennis Kearney’s stirring speeches, became a recorded, historical document. Back then, political correctness was not around so U.S. politicians opined freely and openly about racism, as indicated by the following excerpts from Kearney’s book “Speeches of Dennis Kearney, Labor Champion”:

  • From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 5, 1878: “The workingmen of California are becoming overpressed. The capitalistic thief and land pirate of California, instead of employing the poor white man of that beautiful and golden State, send across to Asia, the oldest despotism on earth, and there contracting with a band of leprous Chinese pirates, brought them to California, and now uses them as a knife to cut the throats of honest laboring men in that State. A Chinaman will live on rice and rats… They will sleep one hundred in a room that one white man wants for his wife and family… and every man for the past fifteen years… that was elected upon the workingmen’s platform… was chosen upon an anti-Chinese plank.”
  • From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 5, 1878: “by the earth and all its inhabitants, and by hell beneath us, the Chinese must go”
  • From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 8, 1878: “Let me caution working men not to employ Chinese laundry men. They are filthy; they spit on clothes, and if they have any disease it is transmitted to men and women through such washed clothing when the body perspires. Do you want leprosy here?”
  • From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 8, 1878: “We will do it with our bullets if our ballots fail. We will drive these moon-eyed lepers back by steamship and by sail”
  • From Kearney’s speech to Lynn, Massachusetts, Workingmen’s party August 12, 1878: “They are going to import 1,500 pig-tailed lepers into Chicago”
  • From Kearney’s speech to Lynn, Massachusetts, Workingmen’s party August 12, 1878: “All we ask of you is to help us to rid that beautiful golden State of these lepers”
  • August 28, 1878, discussion between President Rutherford B. Hayes and Dennis Kearney: “Kearney – ‘Well, Mr. Hayes, how do you account for the depression in business?’ Hayes then with a great many graceful gestures, and with much earnestness, discussed the subject, speaking about the war, the extravagance of flush times, and the reaction. ‘I think’, he [Hayes] continued, ‘it is at its lowest ebb. I think the tide will soon turn, even without a war. Every fifteen or twenty years, as regular as the ebb of the tide, there is a depression in business that is hard to account for…’ Hayes nodded, and answered, ‘Yes, Mr. Kearney, and without agreeing with you in a great many propositions you advance, I wish to say this: That your going about the country and speaking in the manner you do you are doing good work, noble service. You are concentrating the minds of the people on these evils, and the people are bound to rectify the great wrongs perpetrated by the system growing out of the war.’”

Hayes was more than willing to let the Chinese be the scapegoat for the failure of the American economy to thrive. If he had been more interested in dealing with the truth in an effort to correct the real reasons for the depressed national economy, the need to deflect the anger of the masses toward the Chinese might not have been necessary.

The treaty with China had enabled American industry to profit during Reconstruction by effectively enslaving the Chinese with extremely low wages. These fiscal politics resulted in labor class competition between the Chinese and the homegrown U.S. labor class, a class with a standard of living that could not be maintained if they accepted lower pay on par with what the Chinese were making. Rather than American labor recognize the right for any person, Chinese included, to determine what they will or will not find acceptable as a wage, they chose racist demonization of the Chinese. Although the Chinese were made out to be the villains, it was American politics of greed and power that were actually to blame for America’s economic woes.

What has the gringa learned from all this?  It’s all propaganda that America is equal opportunity. This is a bill of goods sold to the average working person who is too busy grubbing away at their regular jobs, paying the bills and tending to their family to bother with effecting change of the real America, a nation designed and orchestrated by wealthy elites who continue to capitalize off the backs of the working class. And if they get exposed and the labor class brings down the heat on them, they in turn sow the seed of conflict in order to create class wars so that the population starts blaming each other rather than staying focused on the truth.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I enjoy my working class life. I’m just tired of die-hard Patriots getting apoplectic and calling people nasty names like “unpatriotic” when someone speaks the truth about how America really operates and how it was really designed. I’m not advocating class warfare, I’m just saying the labor class has been purposely created and carefully groomed and maintained for the purpose of enriching those who created it and their successors. The truth is the truth whether it’s a pleasant truth or a harsh truth. Stating a harsh truth is not criticizing, it’s simply pointing out what’s true. I, for one, do not go around setting myself up to be lied to. I’ll be the first to tell you to shut up if I think I’m being fed a line of horse crap. So, the propaganda that the founding fathers of America were these high-minded, religious freedom fighters who were wanting to build a new nation where everyone could be equal and free is a bunch of nonsense. I say, “Shut up! No they were not!”

In my opinion they were a bunch of rebellious British subjects who had wealth that they wanted to protect and keep private rather than let the King claim it as crown property. The only way to do that would be for them to flee the kingdom with their wealth and travel to a place out of the King’s reach. The best chance they had to leave the country with all of their wealth in their possession, would be to go with the King’s blessing. I think their cunning plan was to convince the King that they were volunteers who wanted to settle the colonies of the New World. And, so, they ran off, far off, far enough that their king could not effectively monitor what they were actually up to. Then, upon arrival,  they cried foul due to religious oppression and began the propaganda campaign to brainwash the masses into cooperating with their desire to create a capitalist nation.

Why do American historians try to convince us of untruths simply because they sound more noble? Is there anything so terribly wrong with the Puritans running off in order to keep their hard earned money to themselves? I don’t see the need to lie about the Puritans’ motives.

A careful study of Britain’s religious climate at that time tells a different story than the one our historians credit to the Puritans. The reality is that the first colonial arrivals at Plymouth in 1620 were ruled over by King James I who was a devout Protestant. He desired to blend the faiths of Anglicanism, Catholicism and Presbyterianism in order to create a sense of national unity.  The Puritans real issue of religious intolerance was not that England was intolerant, but, that they, the Puritans, were intolerant of anything resembling Catholicism. The religious intolerance argument then falls flat with the gringa. So, if they didn’t come here to escape religious intolerance, it had to be the money. Nothing else makes sense.

Judging by the subsequent actions throughout the years of colonization in the New World, it would seem that the true motivator for the Puritans was that they wanted to keep their personal wealth. The Puritans were not victims. They ran off to the new world, seeded their wealth in the fledgling economies of new colonies, then nurtured these economies until they were strong enough to finance a war in order to completely break the yoke of the crown. And, they designed the laws of the colonies, and eventually the country, to benefit the wealthy in order that they maintain their wealth and power by the fruits of the labor class. And political power was also vested in the same people who controlled the wealth. That is the truth about America. It’s always been about the money, and it always will be.

And it was all about the money, with a side order of racism, in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Sources:

www.ourdocuments.gov, Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, (transcript)

http://racism.org, Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868 (transcript)

www.american-historama.org, “Credit Mobilier Scandal”, by Linda Alchin

www.history.com, “Chinese Exclusion Act”, “The Reader’s Companion to American History”, by Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors

archive.org, “Speeches of Dennis Kearney, Labor Champion (1878)”, by Dennis Kearney

http://www.oxfordreference.com/, “James I & VI – Religious Policy”

Photo credit: http://cndls.georgetown.edu

 

Paige Act of 1875, White Hookers Yes, Chinese Hookers No


In the late 1840’s the California Gold Rush was in full swing. People in the United States dreaming of striking it rich were heading west in droves. The United States was less than a century into its nation status and the population was still experiencing much of its growth through immigration. The years of the Gold Rush created a surge in Chinese immigration (“1848-1865: Gold Rush, Statehood, and the Western Movement” by Joshua Paddison, http://www.calisphere.universityofcalifornia.edu). Adult, male Chinese comprised the majority of Chinese immigrants. Financial oppression of the Chinese working class resulted in situations of indebtedness to travel brokers which made it impossible for many of these men to send money home to pay for the passage of their families. As a result, a Chinese prostitution industry sprang up to provide women for these lonely Chinese men (“Push & Pull: Motives for the Immigration of Chinese Women to America”, by Chung-Yu Hsieh, 2001, http://www.dartmouth.edu).

Despite the fact that prostitution among the white population was common, white Americans took exception to the same sort of activity among the Chinese immigrants. The nation’s reaction resulted in the creation of the Paige Act of 1875. Rather than focus on the male Chinese who were immigrating, it concentrated its efforts on curtailing the immigration of Chinese women. The gringa suspects this was probably because the nation, as a whole, enjoyed the benefits of cheap labor (which, in my opinion, bordered on slavery) provided by the Chinese men. All of this despite the fact that the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868, between the United States and China, established favored nation status for China and granted Chinese the right to naturalization as United States citizens (racism.org).

What, then, exactly did the Paige Act of 1875 say and how did it change things for immigration and naturalization in the United States? A transcript of this Act can be found at library.uwb.edu. Contained within all the legislation passed by the Forty-third Congress of the United States on March 3, 1875, is Chapter 141 which is the Paige Act. Brief descriptions of the legalese of each section are as follows:

Sec. 1 – Conditions are created for the purpose of screening Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Necessary entry permits are denied if a person is found to be entering the United States for “lewd and immoral purposes”.

Sec. 2 – Establishes as a crime human trafficking between the United States and “China, Japan, or any Oriental country”. An offense is punishable by a fine of up to two thousand dollars and a prison sentence of up to one year.

Sec. 3 – The “importation into the United States of women for the purposes of prostitution is hereby forbidden”. Those found guilty of importing prostitutes are guilty of a felony and subject to a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to five thousand dollars.

Sec. 4 – Any involvement in importing the labor of a “cooly” (a Chinese male bound in service by contract) is guilty of committing a felony and, if convicted, subject to a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars and a prison sentence of up to one year.

Sec. 5 – Immigration is prohibited to convicted felons of other countries, unless the crime was political. Immigration is also prohibited to women who are “imported for the purposes of prostitution”. If such “obnoxious persons” are aboard a ship that arrives at a United States port, these people are forbidden from leaving the ship. (The gringa finds it amusing that in a formal government document establishing law, a class of people are called “obnoxious persons”.) Allowance is made for suspected “obnoxious persons” to appeal to a United States court and challenge the denial of their immigration. The ship is detained until a judgment has been determined. However, the master of the ship has the option to post a bond of five hundred dollars so that the suspected “obnoxious person” may be permitted to land and offers surety that if said suspected “obnoxious person” is found guilty, will return the offender to their native country within six months. If the owners of the ship are found guilty of any violations, they are subject to forfeiture of the vessel.

The most significant change to immigration policy is that citizenship through naturalization is available to all free, white men, all African descendants, and, now, all Chinese immigrants. Yet, still, any immigrating woman (unless she’s African or Chinese) or non-Chinese or Non-African is denied U.S. citizenship.  However, despite singling out China, Japan, and “any Oriental country” in sections 1, 2, and 4, the lack of racial specificity in sections 3 and 5 establish that it was not really a racially biased Act. What may seem racially biased in Section 4, the prohibition of “cooly” immigration, was actually intended to prevent labor practices that were practically a form of Chinese enslavement.

So, rather than be a racially biased piece of legislation, it was more discriminatory to women. It discriminated equally to all ethnicities of women whom attempted to immigrate for the purpose of plying their age-old sex trade in the New World. The gringa supposes white prostitutes had the most to gain by this bit of legislation. It seems that in 1875 the only prostitutes the United States wanted were the ones that were home grown.

(image credit: http://www.nwhm.org)