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The Antislavery Origins of US Immigration Policy

The Antislavery Origins of US Immigration Policy <p>Abstract:</p><p>Congress played almost no role in regulating the entry of immigrants before the Civil War. The states passed their own laws controlling the admission, exclusion, and expulsion of foreigners, as well as the movement of free and enslaved African Americans. When a national immigration policy began to emerge for the first time during the Civil War, it was shaped by the dominant ideology of antislavery. In 1862 Congress passed legislation prohibiting American involvement in the so-called coolie trade, equating the transportation of unfree Chinese laborers with slavery. Legislation passed in 1864, by contrast, gave federal recognition to the recruitment of European workers on short-term contracts. The 1862 law led indirectly to the exclusion of Chinese laborers in 1882, which was justified as an antislavery measure. The 1864 law, meanwhile, generated opposition to immigrant contract labor, also on antislavery grounds, culminating in the prohibition of immigrant contracts under the Foran Act of 1885. In this way, Chinese migration was coded as inherently unfree, and European workers, liberated from the shackles of contract, emerged as America’s archetypal immigrants. Together, these two developments during the Civil War laid the groundwork for the federal immigration system of the postbellum era.</p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of the Civil War Era University of North Carolina Press

The Antislavery Origins of US Immigration Policy

The Journal of the Civil War Era , Volume 11 (3) – Sep 1, 2021

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright @ The University of North Carolina Press
ISSN
2159-9807

Abstract

<p>Abstract:</p><p>Congress played almost no role in regulating the entry of immigrants before the Civil War. The states passed their own laws controlling the admission, exclusion, and expulsion of foreigners, as well as the movement of free and enslaved African Americans. When a national immigration policy began to emerge for the first time during the Civil War, it was shaped by the dominant ideology of antislavery. In 1862 Congress passed legislation prohibiting American involvement in the so-called coolie trade, equating the transportation of unfree Chinese laborers with slavery. Legislation passed in 1864, by contrast, gave federal recognition to the recruitment of European workers on short-term contracts. The 1862 law led indirectly to the exclusion of Chinese laborers in 1882, which was justified as an antislavery measure. The 1864 law, meanwhile, generated opposition to immigrant contract labor, also on antislavery grounds, culminating in the prohibition of immigrant contracts under the Foran Act of 1885. In this way, Chinese migration was coded as inherently unfree, and European workers, liberated from the shackles of contract, emerged as America’s archetypal immigrants. Together, these two developments during the Civil War laid the groundwork for the federal immigration system of the postbellum era.</p>

Journal

The Journal of the Civil War EraUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Sep 1, 2021

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