Theywere first viewed as economic competition. The JapaneseAmericans were then forced into internment camps simply becauseof the whites fear and paranoia. The Japanese first began to immigrate to the United Statesin 1868. At first they came in small numbers. US Census recordsshow only 55 in 1870 and 2,039 in 1890. After that, they came inmuch greater numbers, reaching 24,000 in 1900, 72,000 in 1910,and 111,000 in 1920.
(Parrillo,287) Most settled in the westernstates. (Klimova,1)Many families in Japan followed the practice ofprimogeniture, which is when the eldest son inherits the entireestate. This was a “push” factor. Because of primogeniture,”second and third sons came to the United States to seek theirfortunes. “(Parrillo,287) The promise of economic prosperity andthe hope for a better life for their children were two “pull”factors.
These foreign-born Japanese were known as Issei (firstgeneration). They filled a variety of unskilled jobs inrailroads, farming, fishing, and domestic services. (Klimova,1)The Japanese encountered hostility and discrimination from thestart. In California, a conflict with organized labor was due totheir growing numbers in small areas and racialvisibility. (Parrillo,287)White workers perceived Japanese as economic competition. Their willingness to work for lower wages and under poorconditions brought on hostility from union members.
Theimmigrants became victims of ethnoviolence. In 1890, Japanesecobblers were attacked by members of the shoe makers union, andJapanese restaurateurs were attacked by members of the union forcooks and waiters in 1892. It was very difficult to find steadyemployment; therefore, most of them entered agricultural work. They first worked as laborers, accumulated sufficient capitol,then as tenant farmers or small landholders. Some becamecontract gardeners for whites.
(Parrillo,287)The Japanese farmers were very knowledgeable of cultivation,which made them strong competitors against white farmers. Morediscrimination by the dominant group soon followed. “In 1913, the California legislator passedthe first alien landholding law, prohibitingany person who was ineligible for citizenshipfrom owning land in the state, and permittingsuch persons to lease land for no more thanthree years in succession. “(Parrillo,287)This was ofcourse aimed at keeping the Japanese in theworking class.
Their native born children, the Nisei (second-generation),were automatically US citizens. Thus, the Issei had land putunder their childrens names directly or by collectively owningstock in landholding companies. Discrimination against theJapanese continued after World War I. The California legislaturepassed a law in 1920 “prohibiting aliens form being guardians ofa minors property or from leasing any land atall. “(Parrillo,288) Yet another attempt by the dominant group topreserve power.
Japanese American children also suffered racism anddiscrimination. In 1905, the San Francisco School Board ofEducation passed a policy sending Japanese children to asegregated Oriental school in Chinatown. (Parrillo,288)”Superintendent, Aaron Altmann, advised the citys principals:”Any child that may apply for enrollment orat present attends your school who may bedesignated under the head of Mongolian mustbe excluded, and in furtherance of thisplease direct them to apply at the Chineseschool for enrollment. “(Asia,1)Japanese immigrants being extremely racially distinct, haddifferent cultural customs and religious faith, and tended tochain migrate and stay within their own small communities. Thisaroused distrust and the idea that they could not beassimilated. (Klimova,2) Japans victory in the Russo-Japanesewar in 1905 fueled the irrational distrust and prejudice.
It ledto the Gentlemens Agreement of 1908, secured by PresidentRoosevelt, which “Japan agreed to restrict, but not eliminatealtogether, the issuance of passports. “(Parrillo,288) Thisattempt at reducing Japanese immigration had a huge loophole, itallowed wives to enter. Many Japanese practiced endogamy andsent for “picture brides. ” “Several thousand Japanese enteredthe United States every year until World War I, and almost 6,000a year came after the war. “(Parrillo,288)The anti-Japanese attitudes grew stronger.
The ImmigrationLaw of 1924 stated that all aliens ineligible for citizenshipwere refused entry. Thus, “. . . the Japanese migration to Americacame to a complete cessation.
“(Klimova,2) The law stayed ineffect until 1952. By 1941, “about 127,000 ethnic Japanese lived in the UnitedStates, 94,000 of them in California. “(Parrillo,289) Only “37percent were Issei. . .
“(Klimova,1) On December 7, 1941, Japanlaunched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. When news of theattack reached the west coast, Japanese neighborhoods weresurrounded by police. Within the first day, the FBI arrested1,300 dangerous aliens. They had jailed nearly 2,000 more bythe end of December. (Spickard,93) Most of them were businessexecutives, leaders of Japanese associations and communityleaders whose only suspicious act was visiting relatives in Japanor contributing to the Japanese equivalent of the United ServiceOrganization (USO). Those arrested were thrown into