Chinese immigration in American begun back in the 17th century and were influenced by many reasons. According to data collected on immigration, the Chinese immigration to America can be calcified into three categories this being 1849 to 1883, 1883 to 1965 and 1965 to date. These three categories periods categories the immigration of the Chinese into the states. 1848, saw one of the largest waves of immigrants come to the states. The Gold Rush Era was the main reason behind the influx of immigration during this period. 95% of all the immigrants who came from China were recorded to be male. The immigration from southern china where a significant number of the immigrants came from suffered from famine, which was brought about by the civil war going on in China at the time. Because of the conditions, back home most immigrants found this as the way in which they could escape, and in so doing help their families back home who were unable to take the journey (Lee, 342).
Most were looking for better opportunities to make money, and which they would then take back to their families, the immigration from China to America was made via steamships through the San Francisco harbour. The first china town in the United States was built in San Francisco. According to historical recodes, most of these immigrants who settled in San Francisco came from poor backgrounds to find better opportunities not necessary to enrich themselves. In addition to escaping poverty at home, some immigrants from China were looking for adventure and going out to America provided this opportunity. The civil war in China was in full swing during this period, and the gold rush offered an opportunity that most took. In late 1865, the railroad construction went on to attract more Chinese immigrants to America. Although the conditions they worked in were dangerous, to say the list, the Chinese immigrants agreed to work for low wages in rough terrains.
One of the main tasks that the Chinese immigrants were tasked with was they lying down of the western rail tracks, which in historical records is considered one of the greatest engineering accomplishments of that period. The laying down of the rail tracks was made at a fast pace due to the availability of cheap labour from the immigrants. The completion, which came about in 1868 also presented another problem. Since most immigrants depended on the railway construction to earn a living, the completion meant that they had to find alternative work. However, due to forced circumstances most immigrants stated working menial jobs, which by then were considered women labour. Some of the jobs that were provided by the frontier communities that had sprung up during the construction included taking care of young children, construction of makeshift restaurants, and laundering. Due to the harshness of the western territories, most women choose note to go but instead stay home and rely on their men.
However, the few that went were forced to trade sexual pleasures for money, something that turned out to be a lucrative business by early 70s. After the completion of lying down the tracks and the end to the gold rush era, Chinese immigrants endured waves of racial segregation, discrimination due to their culture and violence by the western American settlers. In cities such as Los Angeles, Chinese immigrants were discriminated and racially segregated to living in worse conditions than those they had left at home. While some opted to live most endured the violence and stayed. Between 1850 and 1882, more than three hundred Chinese immigrants had settled in America. It is important to note that conditions forced most of the immigrants to go to America due to the conditions that they were living in back in their country. Although they did not find the heaven they were looking for, America offered more opportunities than they could find at home (Research Review of Equal Education).
In 1882, the USA congress saw this as an influx, that if left unchecked, would finally grow to numbers that they could not control. Because of this, the congress passed an act that was known as The Chinese Exclusion law in 1882. Contentious to the how the state was ran prior to the law, where America welcomed all immigrants, the law closed doors to new immigrants from China. This time is historically considered as a turning point in immigration, in America. After the law was adopted and made an act Chinese offenders were deported or jailed for long periods, Chinese immigrants already in America were denied the right to become citizens. The Chinese exclusion act left most of them hiding, and living likes immigrants. All doors that let in Chinese immigrants were closed, even to labourers who offered cheap labour. The law cut of any link of growing to a community that the Chinese immigrants had.
However, in order to survive the harsh conditions that they were forced to live with; Chinese formed close sect societies that enabled them keep their businesses open. What the American government feared most than anything was having a society that was overpopulated by immigrants. Before The Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, the Chinese had ventured into many states and established small sect that offered cheap labour on any jobs that they could have their hands on. However, the threat of them becoming uncontained had grown and the bill proposed to keep them at check by not letting them grow out of hand. In addition, most of the settlers felt that the immigrants posed a threat to their economy, in that, most attributed the lack of employment opportunities and low wages to the immigrants. According to records, settlers in areas such as the West Coast complained that the Chinese immigrants were causing a steady decline to the wages they were earning.
Experts at that time figured that this would slow down the economy since most of the settlers, who were not willing to work for low wages, would eventually be jobless. In addition, the government figured that this would eventually lead to high rates of unemployment, which would then lead to insecurity issues. After the enactment of the bill, most immigrants were forced to live in dilapidated states in ghettos that were more commonly referred to as Chinatowns. The living conditions in these ghettos was alarming violence and insecurity became part and parcel of living (Miščević, Kwong 125). The bill also brought about racial segregation amongst the settlers and the immigrants. The immigrants were thought of or referred to as unwanted people who had entered the country illegally. In some extremes situations, they were harassed and even killed. Being Chinese became dangerous and at this point most ran back to their countries. Finding jobs also become hard since no one was willing to hire them and if they did the wages were way less than they expected.
When they first entered America, Chinese immigrants were people who came from totally different cultures. Their cultures and customs were different from that of America. Although some could speak and understand English, most of them came from poor backgrounds, which meant that they did not understand or speak English. Their method of dressing was also different from what they found. In terms of religion, what they found in America was very different from what they had at home. Apart from that, the settlers also had a different working ethics than they had. Moving to America for them was a complete change from their customs and cultures (Research Review of Equal Education). Over the years, most were forced to conform to the change in culture. Since most depended on working in the gold mines or railways, they were forced to learn English. Learning how to speak English enabled them get better wages, which they would then send home (Min, 342).
During the construction of the railway, most of the immigrants who could speak and understand English were given better positions such as supervising the rest of the workers. In order to get better pay and better prospects, most were forced to adapt to the change in language. The immigrants were not only forced to change the way they talked, but they were also forced to change the clothes they wore. In order to adapt to the living and working conditions, most immigrants changed their dressing better to fit the western culture the western culture. Adapting to the western culture helped in reducing the ratio violence that they underwent. Adapting to new cultures also helped in getting better prospects.
However, social change was not only one sided. As much as the Chinese immigrants were affected by the different culture, they also influenced cultural change in America. For instance, historians note that the Chinese had a significant impact on the feeding habits of the settlers. Chinese immigrants were considered to be extremely good cooks. This lead to the influence the way food was prepared and consumed. Because of the work that was going on during the railway lying down period, many restaurants cropped up around small towns that workers lived. Most of the cooks who were employed to work in the restaurants were Chinese immigrants. Apart from feeding practices, the Chinese immigrants also influenced the American working culture (Gold, 215). Although they were under paid, the immigrants worked hard in their jobs. Their ability to withstand tough conditions influenced the performance culture amongst most settlers at that time.
In addition, though they changed their clothing methods, most of their garments were considered to be of a fashionable nature, which also led to an impact it the wearing trend. Chinese immigrants were also considered very good farmers. After they had settled in America, the Chinese went ahead and cultivated the lands providing fruits and vegetables to the settlers. Most settlers were quick to copy this method of farming. However, though this was the case according to history, Chinese immigrants were considered to come from a less superior culture (Gold, 215). Their culture was considered inadequate to deal with the needs that America had at the time. On the other hand, despite the problems they faced by holding on to their culture, customs and ethnicity, the Chinese immigrants have played a crucial role in making of America to what it is today.
Min, Pyong. Mass Migration to the United States: Classical and Contemporary Periods. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 2002. Print.
Miščević, Dušanka. Kwong, Peter. Chinese Americans: The Immigrant Experience. Southport, Conn.: Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 2000. Print.
Research Review of Equal Education. Evanston, v: Center for Equal Education, School of Education, Northwestern University, 1977. Print.
Lee, Erika. At America: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. Internet resource.
Gold, Martin. Forbidden Citizens: Chinese Exclusion and the U.s. Congress : a Legislative History. Alexandria, VA: TheCapital.Net, 2012. Print.