Alien Nation: Chinese Migration in the Americas from the Coolie Era through World War II

By Chung, Sue Fawn | Oregon Historical Quarterly, Spring 2016 | Go to article overview

Alien Nation: Chinese Migration in the Americas from the Coolie Era through World War II


Chung, Sue Fawn, Oregon Historical Quarterly


ALIEN NATION: CHINESE MIGRATION IN THE AMERICAS FROM THE COOLIE ERA THROUGH WORLD WAR II

by Elliott Young

The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2014. Illustrations, maps, tables, notes, bibliography, index. 384 pages. $29.95 paper.

Tracing the migration of Chinese through Cuba, Peru, Mexico, Baja California, Canada, and the United States, Elliott Young has carefully documented and explored the experiences of Chinese immigrants between 1847 until the present. Young's thematic, rather than chronological, study approach delves into the problems the nations faced in trying to enforce Chinese exclusion or restrictive laws. Chinese were aliens in the Americas both legally and culturally, and were the first to be categorized as "illegal aliens" when they entered without proper documentation.

Part 1, "Coolies and Contracts, 1847-1874," covers debates over the coolie trade and the different types of contracts under which the Chinese immigrated. Many of those contracts made Chinese migrants indentured servants or a status closely akin to slaves. Their rude awakening came as early as the Chinese immigrants' ocean crossing, where many died because of the harsh treatment on the ships and where mutiny sometimes occurred. Part 2, "Clandestine Crossings and the Production of Illegal Aliens, 1882-1900," documents anti-Chinese global discourse and restrictive legislation passed against Chinese in different countries. Young discusses worker kidnapping, border crossings (especially illegal immigration into the United States), deportations, and the development of immigration bureaucracy. Balancing the picture, corrupt immigration officials, smuggling, and illegal entries through the different "back doors" completes the theme of illegal alien methods of entry.

Part 3, "Competing Revolutionary Nationalisms, 1900-1940," relates growing nationalism in countries with Chinese restrictions and expulsions, increased violence, and transnational Chinese networks that responded to those events. Young presents key court cases involving the events during this time period. The book's epilogue brings readers into the present-day conundrum on immigration. He closes with the 1993 Golden Venture attempt of desperate Chinese trying to enter the United States illegally. …

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