Mexican and Chinese Immigration during the Golden Door Period Essay

Submitted By cwinn22
Words: 1108
Pages: 5

America has always been seen as the land of opportunity and has held the promise of a better to its people. During the 19th century, a period referred to as the “Golden Door” era, millions of people immigrated to the US in search of the promise that America held. Unfortunately for the Mexican and Chinese who immigrated to the Americas West Coast the better life that they sought was extremely difficult to reach. They were met with harsh discrimination and policies set against them that made it near impossible to succeed. The lives of immigrants on the East and West Coast during the “Golden Door” period was largely uniform in immigration policies, but the fierceness of opposition and prejudice towards these immigrants was much greater on the West Coast than the East which caused the formation of ethnic communities not seen in the East. After the Mexican-American War the US obtained a large area of Mexican land through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo including the Rio Grande boundary of Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado. The US not only obtained the land but its Mexican inhabitants as well. The Mexicans living in these areas were given a choice to either remain Mexican citizens or become American citizens. Unfortunately they weren’t given the same rights as their white counterparts. Strict new land laws all but obliterated the Mexican middle class and left little choice of occupation for the displaced. The West, which had become a huge agricultural center, had need for cheap labor, openings that Mexicans took on. They were sought after as laborers because they didn’t organize into Unions, left when out of season, and could be easily deported when trouble was caused. They were met with fierce discrimination from the white inhabitants in the area. In Linda Gordon’s The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction one Mexican recalls the harsh treatment towards their people. “A sheriff sat on horseback, with a revolver, like the other men. Women called us vile names and some of them put pistols to our heads.” Gangs of white men took white children from Mexican run orphanages because Mexicans were deemed as unfit mothers and savages. 370,000 Chinese immigrated to the US’s West coast from the 1850’s-1920’s, pushed out of China because of Opium wars and the Taiping Rebellion civil war. Many went to California enticed by the promise of riches that the gold rush brought. They were given a ticket by the Chinese government to par for their voyage and were basically sold to mining companies to pay off their debt. In Mae Ngai’s The Lucky Ones, a story about the first generations of Chinese to come to America, the book tells of the predetermined destiny of Chinese and the forces set against them. “The Chinese were already cast as a subordinate group, not universally disdained, but held and a racial distance”. Immigration polices towards these two groups were significantly harsher than policies against the European immigrants in the East. Many Mexicans were sent back to Mexico in an act all Repatriation. This was spurred by the economic disaster and widespread unemployment caused by The Great Depression. Cities simply didn’t want to deal with the number of unemployed Mexicans and the simple solution was to send them back to Mexico. Mexicans were recruited from Mexico when the growing season came about and were deported when the season ended. Some unlucky ones went through this process as many as four times. After WW2 this practice as federalized into an official repatriation system called the Brancero Program. Mexican officials would organize workers, hand them over to the US government who would transport them and leave them in farmer’s hands. On the East coast even when jobs were scarce immigrants were never deported, they just lost their jobs. This illustrates the unbalance in treatment of European immigrants to Mexican and Chinese immigrants on the West Coast. In addition, the Chinese Exclusion Act