All across the West, relocation notices were posted on April 30, 1942
The Japanese began arriving on the United States mainland in the early 1890s. The flow of immigrants increased when the Organic Law of 1900 rendered the contracts of all Japanese in Hawaii null and void, freeing them to pursue opportunity in the American West. Many Issei (first generation Japanese immigrants) sought work in farming in California’s growing agricultural economy. The Immigration Commission in 1909 calculated that of the 79,000 Japanese immigrants on the mainland, approximately one-half were involved in farming. White farmers also valued Japanese for their expertise in agriculture and for the comparatively low cost of their labor. In addition, Japanese also sought jobs as industrial fishermen, miners, loggers and service workers. The growing population together with restrictive housing barriers gave rise to the establishment of Japantowns in many urban centers of the West. These enclaves provided opportunities to many independent Japanese business owners.
Evacuation and Internment of San Francisco Japanese - …
The Korean War initiated the largest wave of Korean immigration to the United States since the Russo-Japanese War. Most of this immigration consisted of Korean women and orphans covered under the War Brides Act. In 1952, Congress passed the Walter-McCarran Act, over a veto by President Harry Truman, a compromise between the desire for equality and a hesitation to open national borders. On the one hand, the act nullified both the Naturalization Act of 1790 and all federal anti-Asian exclusion laws, allowing for the first time all legal immigrants in America to become naturalized citizens. On the other hand, the Act did not abolish the biased quota system, allowing only a total of 2,000 visas annually for all nineteen of the countries in the Eastern hemisphere. One other important difference in the Act was the establishment of a preference system. The United States no longer looked at race as the only factor for immigration but gave preference to those with professional and technical skills.
Before the turn of the 20th Century, Asians were viewed as an inferior race, little better than “beasts of burden.” This all changed with the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Japan prevailed in both wars and established Korea as a Japanese protectorate. In less than forty years, Japan had transformed itself from a pre-modern agrarian society to a formidable industrial and military power. Unfortunately, these victories earned the Japanese more fear than respect in America. The rapid influx of out-of-work Japanese soldiers and Korean refugees after the Russo-Japanese War together with the increasing labor and social organization of the Issei, contributed to the view of the Japanese and other Asians as the “Yellow Peril.”
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The Korean War again showed that the United States was no longer an isolationist country. Now it was involved in the reconstruction of a war-torn world, including Japan and Germany. America was deeply involved in world politics and interested in modeling itself as the leading nation to promote democratic values. In the landmark anti-segregation case Brown v. Board of Education, the amicus brief by Justice Department stated, “The existence of discrimination against minority groups in the U.S. has an adverse effect upon our relations with other countries.” At the same time, the United States was gripped by fear of communism, and believed tighter and more organized control of its borders to be the solution against communist infiltration. These somewhat conflicting desires worked to reshape racially-biased American immigration policy.
American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco
During the 1980s, American automobile manufacturers operating outdated plants began losing their competitive edge to newer, more efficient Asian manufacturers, particularly Japan. People accused Japan of trying to do economically what they failed to do militarily in World War II. Lee Iacocca, chairman of the Chrysler Corporation, even made a joke about dropping more nuclear weapons on Japan. “Buy American” campaigns were started, and anything that was Japanese became a target for “Japan bashing.” The perceived Japanese threat was embodied in Hollywood films such as Rising Sun, where the protagonist battles a faceless horde of Japanese businessmen and gangsters bent on American economic takeover.
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One factor contributing to the changing opinion of Asian Americans was their heroic participation in the war effort. The heroic exploits of the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team became widely known and heralded. Tens of thousands of Asian Americans of all ancestries enlisted to serve their country, enough to support military units for Chinese, Filipino and Korean Americans as well as the Filipinos who were recruited to fight against the Japanese in the Philippines with the promise of United States citizenship. The goodwill generated by this contribution was reflected in the legislation of the time. In 1946, three years after Chinese could become naturalized as citizens, the Luce-Cellar Bill extended the same right to Filipinos and Asian Indians. In a similar display of postwar goodwill, the War Brides Act of 1945 (later amended in 1947 to include veterans of Asian descent) along with the GI Fiancées Act of 1946, allowed thousands of Asian fiancées and wives of servicemen to enter the United States. No longer concerned with an “Asian invasion,” these women were allowed to enter as non-quota immigrants. Anti-miscegenation laws, while still supported by a segment of the population, also fell from favor. In 1948, the California Supreme Court declared in Perez v. Sharp that California’s anti-miscegenation law constituted a violation of civil rights, releasing a wave of marriage applications that had been stymied for years.