Chinese Exclusion, the First Bureau of Immigration, and the 1905 Special Chinese Census: Registered, Counted, Arrested, Deported--1892-1906

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Author: Sue Fawn Chung
Date: Annual 2018
From: Chinese America: History and Perspectives
Publisher: Chinese Historical Society
Document Type: Report
Length: 12,513 words

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The first Bureau of Immigration (Bl) under the leadership of Terence V. Powderly and Frank P. Sargent successfully expanded its control over America's immigrants by utilizing the anti-Chinese sentiment present at the time. One of the cornerstones of the BI's actions was the 1905 Special Chinese Census, which sought to register and count the Chinese present in the United States between the 1892 Geary Act (the ten-year extension of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, 29 Stat. 214, with the added condition of registration and deportation rationale (1)) and the final tally of the 1905 Census reported to Congress in 1906. Throughout the process BI officials arrested and deported those without proper documentation (either Certificates of Residence or Certificates of Identity). (2) BI records provided insight into their actions. (3) The results of the programs, especially its judicial powers and deportation arrests, had far-reaching consequences for the Chinese in the United States as fear of American government officials increased. This did not go unnoticed in China, where talk of a boycott of American goods had begun as early as the passage of federal exclusionary laws and reached its height in 1905 as U.S.-China trade relations deteriorated to the point where Chinese merchants in the port cities launched the anti-American boycott.


In the late nineteenth century, negative stereotypes of the Chinese were based on European pseudoscientific theories supporting the racial superiority of Anglo-Saxons and the inferiority of the Chinese. The strange dress, customs, non-Christian beliefs, and activities of the Chinese spurred the anti-Chinese movements, which were often violent. The growth of the popular media and the aspirations of politicians who could unify diverse groups against the Chinese led to the popular clamor to take legislative action. (4) In a series of court decisions that influenced popular opinion and the media dating from 1878 onward and that coincided with the rise of labor unions that called for the end of "cheap coolie labor," many Americans believed that the Chinese were unsuited for American citizenship and participation in the American way of life. Chinese women were targeted because they would have numerous children and contribute to the growth of the culturally "alien and unassimilable" population in America; so the 1875 Page Law essentially prevented the immigration of Chinese women and created a "bachelor-like Chinese society" despite the fact that one-third to one-fourth of the men were married but living separately from their wives, who were in China. (5) The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and its extensions were attempts to solve the problem of stemming the tide of Chinese immigration on several fronts: ending the immigration of laborers, severely restricting who could enter, deporting Chinese who had not legally entered the country, and preventing women from entering in order to stop the formation of families and thus limit the number of American-born children.

At first Congress put the control of immigration under the Department of the Treasury's Bureau of Customs to implement and enforce the 1882 law, but widespread public dissatisfaction quickly grew because...

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Source Citation
Chung, Sue Fawn. "Chinese Exclusion, the First Bureau of Immigration, and the 1905 Special Chinese Census: Registered, Counted, Arrested, Deported--1892-1906." Chinese America: History and Perspectives, annual 2018, pp. 21+. Accessed 31 Jan. 2023.

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