'American Experience: The Chinese Exclusion Act'
(DVD / PG / 2018 / PBS)
Overview: Examine the origin, history and impact of the 1882 law that made it illegal for Chinese workers to come to America and for Chinese nationals already here ever to become U.S. citizens. The first in a long line of acts targeting the Chinese for exclusion, it remained in force for more than 60 years.
DVD Verdict: OK, so, let's get to the heart of this 160 minute documentary from the off: Chinese Exclusion Act On May 6th, 1882 - on the eve of the greatest wave of immigration in American history - President Chester A. Arthur signed into law a unique piece of federal legislation.
Called the Chinese Exclusion Act, it singled out as never before a specific race and nationality for exclusion - making it illegal for Chinese workers to come to America - and for Chinese nationals already here ever to become citizens of the United States.
As we progressively learn throughout this engaging new PBS documentary, for the first time, federal law proscribed entry of an ethnic working group on the premise that it endangered the good order of certain localities.
The earlier Page Act of 1875 had prohibited immigration of Asian forced laborers and sex workers, and the Naturalization Act of 1790 prohibited naturalization of non-white subjects.
The Act excluded Chinese laborers, meaning "skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining," from entering the country for ten years under penalty of imprisonment and deportation.
The Chinese Exclusion Act required the few non laborers who sought entry to obtain certification from the Chinese government that they were qualified to emigrate.
However, this group found it increasingly difficult to prove that they were not laborers because the 1882 act defined excludables as “skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining.”
Thus very few Chinese could enter the country under the 1882 law. Diplomatic officials and other officers on business, along with their house servants, for the Chinese government were also allowed entry as long as they had the proper certification verifying their credentials.[
The Act also affected the Chinese who had already settled in the United States. Any Chinese who left the United States had to obtain certifications for reentry, and the Act made Chinese immigrants permanent aliens by excluding them from U.S. citizenship.
After the Act's passage, Chinese men in the U.S. had little chance of ever reuniting with their wives, or of starting families in their new abodes.
A deeply American story - about immigration and national identity, civil rights and human justice; about how we define who can be an American, and what being an American means - 'American Experience: The Chinese Exclusion Act' examines the economic, cultural, social, legal, racial and political dimensions of the law; the forces and events that gave rise to it; and the effect it had, and continues to have, on American culture and identity.
Indeed, 'The Chinese Exclusion Act' explores in riveting detail this little known, yet deeply resonant and revealing episode in American history - one that sheds enormous light on key aspects of the history of American civil liberties, immigration, and culture - during one of the most formative periods of U.S. history. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Symbolism of the Chinese Dragon
George Frisbie Hoar
2012 Congressional Acknowledgment of the Chinese Exclusion Act