July 01, 2017

A Standing Menace to Republican Institutions: A Brief Overview of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and America’s First Attempt to Ban a “Defined” Group from Entry into Our Nation

By Judge James E. Lockemy

On May 6, 1882, 135 years ago, the United States made its first attempt to ban an entire group from entry into our country. The effort was clearly discriminatory, as the title of the legislation itself shouted out racism, but also a headache for the court system that eventually washed its hands and abandoned those oppressed by the law to the discretion of executive branch officials. Although much has been written about this effort and its aftermath, this article provides a brief glimpse into the difficulty of distinguishing one group of immigrants from another in a land of immigrants. If history is a teacher, the effort in these pages remind us of the extreme hazards of such an attempt.

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