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Desert Diary
History/Chinese Immigration


Tension between residents and immigrants is not new to the nation. Indeed, the atmosphere during some times of the past was positively poisonous in comparison to today. Chinese immigration during the last half of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th is a good example. The Chinese entered El Paso in 1881 with the coming of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and eventually many were marooned when the rail line was completed in 1883.

In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act suspended immigration of Chinese laborers for 10 years (with later extensions to 1912) and denied them the possibility of becoming citizens. In 1888, the Scott Act revoked re-entry permits of those visiting families in China. Other Congressional acts further eroded rights and privileges. As a result, by the early 1900s, El Paso's Chinatown had become the primary center for smuggling Chinese into the U.S. from Mexico, only to become stagnant when the Mexican revolution cut lines to the south. By about the third decade of the century, it had ceased to exist as a separate entity.
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.