Tuesday, September 22, 2020


Article Index

I. Exclusion Based on Race and Morality

The perception of Asian women as prostitutes, and thereby a physical and moral threat to the nation, has impacted American immigration law since the 1800s. American society, including journalists, religious leaders, politicians, and the medical profession, all worried about the corrupting effects that Chinese immigration, especially the immigration of Chinese women, would have on the nation. Due to this strong concern, lawmakers and courts zealously attempted to curb the immigration of Chinese women. Such efforts focused on both moral and racial arguments to exclude the Chinese from America.

Early immigration cases demonstrate how lawmakers and courts tried to exclude Asian women as prostitutes or public charges. Other cases, barring Asians from naturalization, pitted Asians in opposition to white American citizens, showcasing the different cultural values of each group. An unfortunate legacy of these cases rests in the moral, gendered, and race-based judgments used to exclude immigrants. These moral and gender-based frameworks, grounded originally in the attempt to exclude Chinese immigrants and based on the perception of Asian female immigrants as prostitutes, are still used today to regulate immigration and citizenship. This section will focus on the moral and racial arguments used to limit immigration, beginning in the late 1800s.

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law