The first racist U. S. immigration law was The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
At the San Francisco Chronicle, the granddaughter of a Chinese man who came to the U. S. to study architecture in 1919 shares his story; she suggests that it provides context for much of what’s happening today.
Here’s a bit:
The White House has just vowed to slash the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. for resettlement by almost half. It plans to bar asylum applications from migrants who pass through another country on their way to America. And the nation’s highest court last year upheld a travel ban from certain predominantly Muslim countries by citing the president’s broad authority to bar immigrants deemed “detrimental to the interest of the United States.”
The roots of that authority lie in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the first immigration law to outlaw an entire ethnic group. It was made permanent 10 years later by the Geary Act, which made illegal immigration a federal crime punishable by a year in prison, with hard labor. All Chinese residents, even those born here, had to carry a residence permit, or face deportation. Chinese were not allowed to bear witness in court, and only a “credible white witness” could testify on their behalf. After that, the 1921 Quota Act numerically limited immigration for the first time.
The entire piece is worth the three minutes of your time it will take to read it.