Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead

Chinese Exclusion Act – 135 Years of History


Librarian Cindy Costales welcomed the residents and their guests to the Friends Room of the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library on January 28th.

Today Mayor Pro Tem Peter Chan and Charles Mau, President of the Greater San Gabriel Valley Lodge of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance will share with us the history of the Chinese immigrants in the United States of America.


Mr. Mau welcomed the guests to this program. He wished everyone a “Happy Chinese Year of the Dog”!

He provided a brief history of the Chinese American Citizens Association which was established in 1895 to combat racism against Chinese immigrants who came to America in the late 19th century first to prospect for gold and later to help build the railroads, farms and cities.

The Chinese had become this country’s hated scapegoats when America suffered from lack of jobs that provided a living wage. The Chinese were accused of working for a lower wage than other laborers.

Chinese Exclusion Act was the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. In the spring of 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Chester A. Arthur. This act provided an absolute 10-year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration. It was the first race-based immigration law.

In 1895 a small group of young native born and American educated Chinese American citizens met in San Francisco and found the Chinese American Citizens Alliance to promote citizenship and to better themselves and their community while combating anti-Chinese sentiment.

In 1912, C.A.C.A. was expanded nationwide. It has become prominent in over a century of battles against discriminatory laws and civic rights violation.

Today C.A.C.A., is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with lodges across the United States. It continues to champion civic and immigration rights and the community’s improvement while providing a rich program of activities for members, family and friends and the next generation.

They promote citizenship, English fluency, American customs and political access while safeguarding voting rights.

Mr. Mau said C.A.C.A. is still focused on protecting civil rights, working for family reunification and fighting hate crimes and stereotypes.


Mayor Pro Tem Peter Chan said history was not kind to everyone. The Chinese Exclusion Act changed things in America. The people who made it happen are long gone.

In the 1990s he researched the act signed into law 135 years ago.

In May 2016 the Monterey Park City Council signed a Resolution called the Day of Inclusion Act to remind the residents of this restrictive law.

He said the Opium War caused many problems in China from 1839 to 1842 when the Qing Dynasty was unable to help their citizens. The British won the trade war and Hong Kong was deeded to England.

The Chinese were looking for ways to earn money to support their families. From 1850 to 1860 they came to California called Gold Mountain to participate in the Gold Rush.

After the rush they help to build the Transcontinental Railroad from 1862 to 1869 as labors. They dug into the Rocky Mountains and help to blow a route for the train lines from California to Utah.

He spoke about the many laborers who were taken ill from drinking the water. The Chinese always boiled water for tea so they were still able to do the hard work.

After the Civil War the Chinese did the jobs that no one else wanted to do. They did work for lower wages doing laundry, building roads, bridges, homes and farming.

Between 1876 and 1878 the Workingmen’s Party was formed because they were no jobs available for people. They blamed the Chinese for working for low wages.

This led to Chinese Exclusion Act that was passed by Congress and signed by President Chester A. Arthur in 1882, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. Geary Act in 1892 extended the act for ten more years.

Mayor Pro Tem Chen stated the Chinese were not allowed to become citizens, have the their day in court or bring their wives to America.

That is why Chinese American Citizens Alliance was founded to help and protect the Chinese immigrants and their families.

The Chinese had Family Associations and TONGS to protect them as the formed Chinatowns where they could live and thrive in their own culture.

The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire in 1906 changed history and the Chinese took advantage of the lack of records. “Paper Sons” were brought from China to work in the family businesses.

Angel Island on the west coast was opened in 1910 until 1940 where Chinese immigrants were processed before being allowed to move into the United States.

World War II began in 1939 in other parts of the world. The United States of America entered into the war on December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed.

The Flying Tigers founded by General Claire Chennault in 1941. Volunteers from the United States and China flew against Japan.

During this war the Chinese (both immigrants and U S citizens) enlisted to serve and protect America from our enemies.

The Magnuson Act, also known as the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943, was the major turning point that helped the Chinese people in the United States of America.

Mayor Pro Tem Chan spoke about how Chinese people still suffered from the immigration laws that restricted the number of immigrants accepted into America.

In 1963 President Kennedy worked with the Civil Rights Movements to improve life in America.

In 1965 President Johnson signed the Immigration and Naturalization Act that abolished an earlier quota system based on national origin and established a new immigration policy based on reuniting immigrant families and attracting skilled labor to the United States.

He said the Chinese have lost over 100 years of family life because they were not allowed to assimilate into the mainstream of America.

They have a lot of work to do to catch up to members of other immigrant communities in the United States of America.

Mayor Pro Tem Chan said people have to learn the history of the Chinese immigrants.  He is willing to share his research with others. He can be contacted at the Monterey Park City Hall at 626-307-1255.


Baldwin Chiu and his wife produced a movie called “Looking for Cleveland”. It is their search for his family in Mississippi. It is an American story on immigration.

The Chinese Immigration Act impacted his family because his father was not allowed to immigrate to America so he grew up without a father.

They did research on public records and finally reached his American roots in Mississippi, the location of many Chinese families.

Mr. Chiu’s great-grandfather and grandfather have lived in American since the 1800s.  He father was left in China for 75 years since the immigrations laws restricted the wives and children from reuniting with the family.

His great-grandfather was born in 1877 in San Francisco and he went back to China to get married.  His great-grandfather was a merchant and not a laborer so he brought his family to America to work in his store in Pace, Mississippi.

His grandfather went back to China to get married and had a son in 1938. His grandfather died in1946.

The Chinese Exclusion Act separated his family for generations. He thanked C.A.C.A. for helping the Chinese people.


Charles Mau, Peter Chan and Baldwin Chiu answered question from the audience.

Cindy Costales thanked the speakers and the guests for attending this informative event.


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