Identity and Exclusion
the nineteenth century, immigrants to the United States faced the
hardship of leaving their familiar homes and all that was known to try
to settle into a foreign country, facing an uncertain culture, land-
scape, and language. Prior to the advent of airplanes, worldwide communica-
tions, and globalized economies, immigrants had to contend with an almost
unimaginable disorientation, which led one writer to comment that ‘‘little is
more extraordinary than the decision to migrate.’’∞
Chinese immigrants faced
the additional burdens imposed by U.S. immigration policies and practices.
Unlike other immigrant groups who chose to make the crossing to the United
States, the Chinese were the first immigrant group that the U.S government
actively sought to keep out of the country. In addition to the arduous journey
and the problems faced once landed in the United States, the Chinese had to
endure additional weeks and, many times, months of detention in quarters as
uncomfortable and crowded as the holds of the ships from which they had
just disembarked, undergoing exacting and repeated questioning by hostile
immigration o≈cers and humiliating medical examinations.
This book shows how this often neglected point of interaction—immi-
gration entry—provides a site around which a regularized pattern of action
developed that defined and created the groups involved. As with the journey
leading to the shores of the United States and the subsequent life that immi-
grants built once they landed, once the United States began to regulate immi-
gration at its borders, the point of entry itself should be regarded as sig-
nificant in establishing elements of immigrant identity, as well as elements
of U.S. government bureaucracy. While every interaction of each Chinese im-
migrant with immigration o≈cials appeared to be a discrete and (possibly
random) act, in actuality they were coordinated, forming, sustaining, and
changing larger networks and structures. The immigration service developed
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