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Asian Migration and Global Cities

Anne Cong-Huyen, Jonathan Young Banfill, Katherine Herrera, Samantha Ching, Natalie Yip, Thania Lucero, Randy Mai, Candice Lau, Authors

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Asian Migration and Laborers: Transcontinental Railroad and Self Employment

A huge chunk of Chinese laborers began with the Transcontinental Railroad. Over 10,000 Chinese miners were recruited for the construction of the railroad through a five year contract. Their working conditions were exhausting and life threatening. Many have died during their work on the railroad due to the weather and terrain of the route but no records of these deaths have been officially documented since the laborers were seen as little to no value at all.

During the beginning of the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, the superintendent required an abundant amount of laborers to work on the railroad consistently and efficiently. Although choosing Chinese immigrants for his labor wasn't what Stobridge had in mind, he tested out their abilities and soon realized that they were perfect to ensure construction was done on time.

The Chinese miners were not paid enough for the work that they had done. For a measly thirty dollars a month, these laborers’ salary were only one third of those of the white men, whom noticeably done less amount of work. Having been paid so little, the Chinese had decided to go on strike and protested for a higher.

The laborers were rarely recognized nor given credit for the work that they’ve done during the time of construction. They were briefly acknowledged as the "poor, and despised class of laborers, called the Chinese." in Crocker’s speech, but if it had not been for them, the earliest completion of the railroad would not have been successful.

During the same time, the Chinese had strategically opened up mini businesses in what is now called Chinatown. This included laundries, restaurants, and Eastern pharmacies

Due to these entrepreneurship, Chinatown soon became a town full of life and a home to about 22,000 individuals. However, the government feared for their future because the Chinese were able to establish a thriving community, hence the issue of the Chinese Exclusion Act, where many Chinese immigrants were detained in Angel Island. Fortunately a fire ensued in 1940, destroying many buildings on the island forcing the station to close.

After the government’s many attempts of bringing down the Asian migrants, the Chinese community still stands together in unity. Today, the Chinese community are not only centered in Chinatown but are scattered all around the city including the Richmond and the Sunset districts. Their presence in the city amps up the cultural autonomy and strengthens the nation through progressiveness.

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