Immigrants Rights

Immigrants' Rights: 1790

Congress passes a law limiting naturalization to "free white persons."

Early California, Immigrants' Rights: 1850

Foreign Miners’ Tax of $20 a month is levied to discourage Latino miners. The tax is repealed in 1851.

Early California, Immigrants' Rights: 1852

Chinese MinersChinese MinersForeign Miners’ Tax revived with the clear intention that it be applied only to Chinese miners.

Early California, Immigrants' Rights: 1862

To discourage Chinese immigration and competition from Chinese workers, the legislature levies the “Chinese Police Tax” of $2.50 per month on almost all Chinese immigrants.

In Lin Sing v. Washburn, the California Supreme Court invalidates the “Chinese Police Tax,” ruling that the state had overstepped its authority and legislated in an area - foreign commerce - that is the exclusive sphere of the federal government. This was the first case in which a Chinese immigrant legally challenged a state law as a violation of a federal law or the United States Constitution.

Early California, Immigrants' Rights, Race: 1870

Congress passes the Civil Rights Act to protect freed slaves, but it includes provisions to ensure the right of Chinese immigrants to testify in court and prohibits state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes, licenses, or penalties on Chinese.

San Francisco passes the “Cubic Air” ordinance requiring every lodging house to provide at least 500 cubic feet of air per inhabitant. Though many overcrowded buildings exist in poor areas of San Francisco, this ordinance is enforced only in Chinatown. Many violators serve jail time rather than pay fines, so the city passes the “Queue” ordinance, requiring that male prisoners’ hair be cut to an inch of their scalps, as a means to force Chinese to pay fines.

Ho Ah Kow successfully sues to overturn the “queue” ordinance after his queue is cut off in jail. This was the first federal case to rule clearly that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to noncitizens.

San Francisco supervisors pass the “Sidewalk Ordinance of 1870,” imposing the highest laundry license fee (more than 7 times the lowest fee) on laundries that do not use horse-drawn vehicles. The law targets Chinese laundrymen, who carry finished laundry to their customers on poles as they walk through the streets. Over the next 14 years, San Francisco passes other ordinances restricting the operation of laundries.

Eary California, Criminal Justice, Immigrants Rights, Race: 1871

In the worst mass lynching in California history, a mob of white and Latino vigilantes murders 19 Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles after gunfire between two rival Chinese syndicates kills a white rancher.

Early California, Immigrants Rights, Race: 1879

Voters ratify a new state constitution.  At the urging of the Workingmen’s Party, the new constitution denies Chinese immigrants the right to vote, bans the hiring of Chinese by corporations or on public works, and authorizes cities to require Chinese residents to live outside city limits or in segregated areas.

Immigrants' Rights, Race: 1882

E-PluribusE-PluribusCongress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Immigrants' Rights: 1886

Yick Wo laundryYick Wo laundryIn Yick Wo v. Hopkins, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a San Francisco ordinance requiring operators of laundries in wooden buildings to obtain approval from the Board of Supervisors to stay in business. Not coincidentally, Chinese laundries operate in wooden buildings. This is the first U.S. Supreme Court decision to state that the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment apply to non-citizens, and that a law that is impartial on its face but is enforced in a discriminatory manner is unconstitutional.

Immigrants' Rights: 1892

Geary Act extends the Chinese Exclusion Act another 10 years and compels all Chinese legitimately in the United States to obtain a government-issued identity certificate that must be carried at all times. Those stopped without the certificate are subject to immediate deportation.
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