America has had a history of being perpetually hostile towards immigrants or people who are not constricted to the Caucasian race that is viewed as a more superior race. This reeds from the systematic racism that was established during the declaration of Independence in 1776, and albeit efforts have been made to hack down repugnant laws and systems, the hostility still remains.
Irrespective of the actions immigrants have put in to build America, racism still survives. Ironically, as a country initially made up of immigrants, and as a people that claim to occupy a land of opportunities, immigrants are not seen with very much illumination these days.
An instance of the hate that immigrants went through trails back to an infamous case the People vs. George Hall case. The case not only uncovered the inadequacies of an American Republican government as “progressive”, but it also added the Chinese people to the group of immigrants as non-Caucasoid fellows that could not testify in the court against their white American counterparts.
A HISTORY OF CHINESE IMMIGRATION.
What started out as a means of entertaining cheap labour from China, turned out to be a racial system fueled by Chinese exclusion. In the 1840s, Chinese people began to migrate from China to America, in search of greener pastures and realistic opportunities. As numerous Chinese men trooped onto American soil, toiling day and night with backbreaking jobs, more Americans felt threatened at the reality of a different set of people; with a distinct culture, language, race, and religion.
However, the ostracism of Chinese folks did not begin until 1954, after the people vs Hall case was dismissed, on the basis of Chinese people being an inferior race with a mild degree of intellect. From there, Chinese men had exclusive rights under the Chinese Exclusion act; a series of laws that limited Chinese humanity, including not being able to testify in court.
This bone of contention, as mentioned earlier, began with the murder of Ling Sing in 1953, by George Hall. But, there are many questions that attempt to peruse the reason for his murder and the reason for racial discrimination against Chinese folks.
PEOPLE VS. HALL: WHAT TRANSPIRED?
We cannot begin this without dire consideration of its root. After the Mexican-American war, California was handed over to America as a condition enshrined in the treaty of Guadalupe. When gold was discovered in the state, an influx of Chinese immigrants occurred, mostly as miners came to dig out gold and make a substantial living. This, in turn, heightened the competition against American white miners.
At this point, the Chinese immigrants had already made use of the Californian courts with degrees of success. Initially, section 14 of the Crime Act stated that no black, Indian, or mullato person will be allowed to give evidence in favour of, or against a white man, even though he is culpable of any offence. Akin to this was section 394 of the Civil cases Act. It was not startling that the Chinese made use of the court systems at this time since they were not affected by both acts.
However, things diverted when, in 1853, the Californian court convicted an American White man, George Hall, of the murder of Ling Sing, on the confirmations of three Chinese witnesses. In 1854, Hall had his conviction reversed when he appealed against the inclusion of Chinese testifiers in court. The crux of his argument was based on section 14 law that prevented blacks, Indians, and mullatos from testifying against White folks.
To have this reversed, his appeal was seen as progressive in the Republican government that accepted racial bias as civilized. Notwithstanding, the Californian Supreme court (led by Hugh Murray and with the support of Heydenfeldt), in agreement with Hall, granted him freedom from all charges and painstakingly extended the ban of section 14 to Chinese people.
Although the aftermath of the cases did not prevent white men from being convicted of murdering Chinese people, it sidelined Chinese folks from giving testimonies in court. Underlying this, the developments increased violence against Chinese folks. Just like other non-white races, they were rough handled through the paths of racial discrimination and abuse. Chinese folks faced human rights violations and were even banned from immigrating into America in 1882.
The case of Hall received backlash from various Chinese folks, leading to the unavoidable reverse of all testimony laws in 1873. However, the damage of an American perspective of the Chinese had already trickled down and intertwined with the American mentality of acquiring the role of superior race through nature —a grave misconception they danced to.
The people vs. Hall is only a glimpse of what immigrants have been through. Albeit, over the years, immigrants’ rights have been recognized by intergovernmental organizations and NGOs spurring world governments to do likewise —America inclusive, we cannot overshadow how discrimination sets in casually at the consideration of migrants.