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Celebration of Asian Americans: Snapshots of Migrations to America

Spotlighting Asian American & Pacific Islanders' Heritage, History, and Contributions

Asian American History Time Line

- First recorded settlement of Filipinos in America. To escape imprisonment aboard Spanish galleons they jump ship in New Orleans and flee into the bayous of Louisiana.

- First recorded arrival of Asian Indians in the United States.

From the Asian American History Time Line -Copyright 1998-2009. Center for Educational Telecommunications, Inc. 



- Chinese "sugar masters" working in Hawaii; Chinese sailors and peddlers in New York.

- Gold discovered in California. Chinese miners begin to arrive.

- Three Chinese students arrive in New York City for schooling. One of them, Yung Wing, graduates from Yale in 1854 and becomes the first Chinese to graduate from a U.S. college.

From the Asian American History Time Line -Copyright 1998-2009. Center for Educational Telecommunications, Inc. 



- First group of 195 Chinese contract laborers land in Hawaii.
- Over 20,000 Chinese enter California.

- California passes a law to bar entry of Chinese and "Mongolians."

- Japan sends its first diplomatic mission to U.S.

- U.S. and China sign Burlingame - Seward Treaty recognizing right of their citizens to emigrate.

-In re Ah Yup rules Chinese ineligible for naturalized citizenship.

- U.S. and China sign treaty giving the U.S. the right to limit but "not absolutely prohibit" Chinese immigration.


- 1882 Chinese Exclusion Law amended to require a certificate as the only permissible evidence for reentry.

- Scott Act renders 20,000 Chinese reentry certificates null and void.

- First Nishi Hongwanji priest from Japan arrives in Hawaii.

- Saito, a Japanese man, applies for U.S. citizenship, but U.S. Circuit Courts refuse because he is neither white nor black.
- Japanese immigration to Hawaii under Irwin Convention ends and emigration companies take over.

From the Asian American History Time Line -Copyright 1998-2009. Center for Educational Telecommunications, Inc. 


- Japanese Hawaiian plantation workers begin migrating to the mainland.

- First group of 7,000 Korean workers arrives in Hawaii to work as strikebreakers against Japanese workers.

- Filipino students (pensionados) arrive in the U.S. for higher education.


- Korean emigration ends.


- Major earthquake in San Francisco destroys all municipal records, including immigration records, so Chinese immigrants are able to claim they are U.S. citizens and have the right to bring wives and children to America.

- Japan and the U.S. reach "Gentlemen's Agreement" whereby Japan stops issuing passports to laborers desiring to emigrate to the U.S.
- President Theodore Roosevelt signs Executive Order 589 prohibiting Japanese with passports for Hawaii, Mexico, or Canada to reemigrate to the U.S.
- First group of Filipino laborers arrives in Hawaii.

- Administrative measures used to restrict influx of Asian Indians into California.
Angel Island Immigration Station opens to process and deport Asian immigrants.

- 1917 Immigration Law defines a geographic "barred zone" (including India) from which no immigrants can come.

- Servicemen of Asian ancestry who had served in World War I receive right of naturalization.

- Immigration Act denies entry to virtually all Asians.

- Luce- Celler bill grants right of naturalization and small immigration quotas to Asian Indians and Filipinos.
- Philippines become independent. U.S. citizenship offered to all Filipinos living in the United States, not just servicemen.

- Amendment to 1945 War Brides Act allows Chinese American veterans to bring brides into the U.S.

- 5,000 highly educated Chinese in the U.S. granted refugee status after China institutes a Communist government.

From the Asian American History Time Line -Copyright 1998-2009. Center for Educational Telecommunications, Inc. 

- Clause in the McCarran - Walter Act grants the right of naturalization and a small immigration quota to Japanese.

- Immigration Law abolishes "national origins" as basis for allocating immigration quotas to various countries -- Asian countries now on an equal footing with others for the first time in U.S. history.

- More than 130,000 refugees enter the U.S. from Vietnam, Kampuchea, and Laos as Communist governments are established there following the end of the Indochina War.
- Massive exodus of "boat people" from Vietnam.

- The Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees set up an Orderly Departure Program to enable Vietnamese to emigrate legally.

- American Homecoming Act allows children in Vietnam born of American fathers to immigrate to the U.S.

- U.S. reaches agreement with Vietnam to allow political prisoners to emigrate to the U.S.

From the Asian American History Time Line -Copyright 1998-2009. Center for Educational Telecommunications, Inc. 

Images of Migration

Early Japanese immigrants to Hawaii.

A 1952 banquet at the clubhouse of the Pakistan League of America on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The league was established in New York in 1947, with a membership that consisted predominantly of former ship workers from East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh), along with their African American and Puerto Rican wives and multiracial children.Courtesy of the family of Ibrahim Chowdry

Makeshift shelter for Indian farm laborers (referred to as a "Hindu bed") in California.

A dormitory at the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay, California, where immigrants coming from China, Japan, Korea, Russia, and South Asia were monitored, interrogated, and detained.

North, Hart Hyatt, 1871- - U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island, San Francisco Bay;

Asian Immigrants Arriving at Angel Island, 1911
U.S. Public Health Services photo, National Archives #90-G-2038 (ARTstor Slide Gallery)

Angel Island (1910-1940) interrogration of immigrants from China

Chinese graduate students (circa 1930s)

U.S. Public Health Service physician Inspets Asian immigrants for trachoma at the Angel Island Immigration Station, California 1910s- Courtsy of U.s. Nationa Library of Medicine

Woman and children held in a detention pen with a social worker at Angel Island Immigration Stations, San Francisco, early 20th century- Courtes U.S. National Library of Medicine

Another Picture from Angel Island.

Southeast Asian Refugees (Publications for helping refugees from Indochina settle in the United States in the '80s - from the Southeast Asia Collection, Northern Illinois University Libraries)

The Constitution of the United States translated into Lao

Vietnamese Immigrants in the United States

Korean Immigrants in the United States

Chinese Immigrants in the United States

South Asian Immigrants in the United States


Kaur, R. (July 2016). "South Asian Americans Want to Be Accepted — Not Merely Tolerated." HuffPost.

Immigrants from Asia in the United States

The Hmong Village Market in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2013.Marlin Levison / Star Tribune via Getty Images

Thai Town, Los Angeles, California. 

Filipinos in the United States

Filipino immigrants, c. 1906

Photo: The Philippine Reporter. Filipino-American veterans of World War II

Articles on Immigration & AAPI Populations

Chinese Passengers on Deck, 1900–15.

Photo: Chinese Passengers on Deck, 1900–15. Hawaii State Archives.