Asiatic Barred ZoneIdentification: Region of the world from which new immigration was not allowed by federal law
Significance: Creation of the Asiatic Barred Zone by the U.S. government highlighted the country’s negative attitude toward Asian immigrants during the early twentieth century.
The California gold rush during the mid-nineteenth century attracted an influx of Asian immigrants to the Far West. The arrival of the gold began to run out. After, Asians were forcibly removed from mining areas and blamed for the dry-up in profits from gold mining. This led to Congress passing the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first piece of legislation that restricted who could immigrate into the United States. Among other restrictions, the act denied Chinese immigrants entry into the United States, unless they obtained certification from the Chinese government.
American fear of Asian immigration continued into the twentieth century with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1917. This law created the Asiatic Barred Zone, which designated a region whose native peoples were barred from entering the United States. The act extended the exclusion formerly limited to the Chinese to all Asians and Pacific Islanders from Turkey and Saudi Arabia in the west to the Polynesian Islands in the east. The fact that President Woodrow Wilson’s veto of this law was overwhelmingly overridden by Congress demonstrated the nation’s nativist attitude at the time. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 eliminated the Asiatic Barred Zone, improving American relations with Asian countries. Nonetheless, quotas and preferences based on occupational skills continued to limit Asian immigration through another decade.
- Lee, Erika. At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
- Tichenor, Daniel. Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control in America. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002.