In the 1850s, Chinese workers migrated to America to work in gold mines, take agricultural jobs, work in factories, and build railroads in the American west. Since the Chinese laborers had to repay loans to the shippers who helped them reach America and because they wanted to send money home to China, they had to work for whatever wages they could get. This drove down wages and with racism contributed to a lot of resentment.
In 1882, Congress responded with the Chinese Exclusion Act. The act suspended immigration of Chinese laborers, skilled or unskilled, for 10 years. Also, every Chinese person traveling in or out of the country had to carry a certificate stating their status as either a laborer, scholar, diplomat, or merchant. The Chinese Exclusion Act was later made permanent. It wasn’t repealed until 1943.
The Immigration Act of 1917 created a literacy test for everyone wishing to immigrate to America and prohibited immigration from Asia.
The Immigration Act of 1924 restricted immigration to two percent of the number of people from each country in the United States as reported in the 1890 census. The 1890 census was chosen because it predated a wave of immigration from eastern and Southern Europe, especially Italy. The quotas included the country of origin of natural-born US citizens. This resulted in large numbers of visas being available to citizens of the British Isles and Western Europe, while limiting immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe.
The Immigration Act of 1965 replaced the quota-based system of immigration with a policy built on reuniting families and attracting skilled workers.
It’s amazing how wrong the politicians were about the impact the Immigration Act of 1965 would have on American society.