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Asian migration pattern into Washington and Oregon

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Asian migration pattern into washington and oregon

If one has to trace the history of migration in the world, one will likely find out that the United States might have has a unique ethnic variety. Putting together the piece of the mosaic using pictures of every race living in the most prosperous country in the world, we will come up with a real colorful work of art. It is true based on statistical evidences that America has always been a place of ethnic diversity” (National Park Service, 2001 p.

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1). Asians, among other races have entered the Oregon and Washington in 19th century and probably have stayed long in the land of the white people, a land the early Asian immigrants considered a mining area where much of gold were buried and were just waiting to be uncovered.

In this paper, we will focus on the Asian migration pattern into the Oregon and Washington. Further this paper will center its discussion on particular races as Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese, Hawaiian and Japanese since they composed the majority of the races in the said region.

The discussion will trace the history of their migration, by races, and how they were able to survive and compete with native inhabitants of Washington and Oregon. We will evaluate the main reasons of their migration and through what means they come to step in the land where racial discrimination exists.

“The Asian population is particularly attracted to regions strong in engineering and high-tech industries” (Frey, William H.). This might have been one of the many reasons why Asian races have been attracted to migrate in America, stayed and treated it their home while retaining their native culture and tradition in the strange land. Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese and Indians obviously developed a unique attachment to the country as most of them chose to serve in the strange land and let the next generation inherit the mixed culture developed as years, decades and centuries passed. In the 2000 census, Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) population has grown to 12 million citizens, which represents 4.3% of the total United States population (National Park Service, p.7). The same report revealed that the six largest Asian races in the population composed of 83% of the total AAPI population, which means that these six largest groups literally dominate the AAPI counts. The largest of the six races is Chinese population with 2.3 million, next are the Filipinos with 2.1 million, Asian Indians with 1.9 million, Koreans with 1.3 million, Vietnamese with 1.2 million and now at sixth were the Japanese people with 1.1 million.

Sociologists explained that there were actually five major periods of migration to the Americas, the earliest of which have already recorded Asians as early settlers. The five periods of migration are the following (Bernard William S. cited in National Park Service, p.7-8):

a.       Colonial Period (1607-1775) – the early settlers in this period were recorded to be of Filipino descent, who were sailors who boarded at St. Malo Bayou near New Orleans. This group of Filipino sailors was known as Manila Men. Historical articles claimed that they have been in the American land as early as 1760s although such claim was still debated upon (Espina, Marina 1983, p.1-7).

b.      Open Door Period (1776-1881) – it was during this period when Asians heard of gold mines in America and with eagerness to take part of such wealth, batches of Asian immigrants came to find their luck.

c.       Regulation Period (1882-1916) – it was during this period when Asians had experience racial discrimination and segregation in the land of the whites when the government signed into law regulations that authorizes Asians over the issue of assimilation.

d.      Restriction Period (1917-1964) – restrictions and racial discrimination on Asian people grew.

e.       Liberalization Period (1965-present) – legal restrictions to Asian migration to the United States were lifted and the nation has since then opened again for other races.

This writer finds it important to have a short look on the general population representation of Asians in the United States in order to have a broader picture of the issue. This is especially important in order to understand the more specific migration pattern of the Asian races in the regions of Oregon and Washington. As we have seen in the presentation of the five periods of Asian migration, it was not in Oregon nor in Washington was that Asians first attracted to work and stay in. The classic magnets of migration were actually Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco (Frey, William H). It was only in the late 18th and 19th century that Oregon and Washington has housed Asians as significant percentage of its population.


The magnet of Oregon and Washington, like America as a whole, was so strong for Asians that its population continued to grow even in the 20th century. In the year 2000, the population of the state of Oregon is composed of 20 thousand Chinese, 10 thousand Filipinos, 12 thousand Japanese, 12 thousand Koreans, 18 thousand Vietnamese, eight thousand Native Hawaiians and the rest composed of Laotians and other Pacific Islanders (Oregon Historical Society).

The earliest Asian settlers of Oregon were the Hawaiian Islanders who boarded from British trading ships. The first wave of this group was during late 18th century and early years of the 19th century. Their purpose was not to work in gold mines nor work in farmlands to pick produce unlike other Asian counterparts. Hawaiians came to Oregon to work for Hudson’s Bay Company, a fur-trading company based in Fort Vancouver. They were not there to work as factory workers but as transporters of goods through the Columbia River. Known for their skills in canoeing, Hawaiians worked as sailors at Fort Vancouver while others worked as millers, gardeners, servants and cooks. As early as 1840, Hawaiians made up 40% of the labor force of the said region and were concentrated in an area outside the Fort called Kanaka Village.

1In the next wave of migration came the Chinese people who arrived at around 1850s in Oregon. The Chinese came to the Pacific Northwest to escape the harsh effects of war in their country. Many of them chose to work in the strange land in their hope of finding a greener pasture for their families and they wanted was to earn money and save for a time and then return home. They do not originally have the plan of staying long in Oregon but most of them were not able to return home.

The Chinese workers who came to Oregon were young men whose skills were on farming. These men were from the poor province of 3“Kwangtung” who came to Oregon to find jobs in the gold mining industry. It is important to stress that the news of the discovery of gold in southern Oregon were brought to China by British trading ships and so from California, Chinese immigrants came to Oregon to work as miners in the Rogue River Valley. The money they earned from gold mining seemed to lack the luster of the gold as many of them turned out to be unproductive. The reason probably was that the territory they claimed to be their mining site were already exploited and abandoned by American miners long before they came.

Leaving the mining industry, Chinese laborers found themselves in the railroad industry with the Japanese migrant workers later in the 19th century. With $1.00 a day wage, Chinese and Japanese workers have been more than willing to work long hours even six-a-half days in a week which made their services the most in demand in the industry. Even in salmon canneries, these people were found productive and skillful even with low wage and later, the lumber industry employed more of these races.

            It was not until 1880s that Chinese workers faced its most formidable hindrances in their history of working in Oregon. Their proliferation and the increasing demand of their skills threatened the residents of Oregon in terms of labor and employment opportunities. It was during these years that the Chinese workers have to endure the pains of persecution and discrimination. In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law, which prohibits the acceptance of Chinese immigrants into the America. The said law forced Chinese immigrants to human smuggling, forcing them to enter the country through illegal routes. Because of the demand for cheap labor, the government later lifted the ban order.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was in effect from 1882 to 1943, which was passed by the 47th Congress due to concerns by American citizens over issues on cheap labor in the construction of the transcontinental railroad (The National Archives). The Chinese Exclusion Act might have been partly beneficial for others since those who were in America since November 17, 1880 were able to stay. Most of them, according to the National Archives were teachers and students, merchant and travelers who were exempted from the status of Chinese naturalization. To make it clear, the said law prohibited the naturalization of the Chinese in ten years of its effectivity.

Another law passed called Act to Prohibit Coming of Chinese Persons into the United States in May 1892 worsens the situation. Also known as the Geary Act, the penalties for any violation of such law will be imprisonment and deportation. Both laws were repealed in 1943 when Franklin Roosevelt signed the Act to Repeal the Chinese Exclusion Acts, to Establish Quotas, and for Other Purposes, which lifted the prohibition of Chinese immigration to the Americas and also the naturalization of the Chinese workers.

            Of the early settlers in Oregon, the Japanese people might have had the most colorful memories of their labor and migration history in America. Like the Chinese workers, these people really worked hard despite low wages in return for working long hours. They were one of the Asian races whose services, skills and dedication to their jobs were highly complemented. As early as 1900, the Japanese population grew fast most of them settled in Portland in a village called Japan Town. Their variety of labor skills enabled them to be hired as restaurant owners and servants while other was lucky enough to become shop owners. In farms, Japanese worked as truck drivers, cutting trees, clearing farmlands and as workers in orchid farms. Others worked in sawmills and railroad construction sites. By 1920, Japanese farmers already produced 75% of the strawberry farm output at Hood River Valley.

            But not everything turned out well for the Japanese immigrants. In 1942, when Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japanese military troops, Japanese workers in the Oregon and all parts of America were severely affected by the event they never had intended to cause. All Japanese residents were forced to transfer to a closed camp wherein they were to stay for a time in order for the American military men to conduct surveillance. In the internment camps, Japanese workers were forced to leave their houses and their jobs including their resources and live in the camp with other neighbors. The executive order No 9066 will we remembered by all Japanese residents as who were in America at that time.

            Meanwhile, Filipinos were one of the latest Asian immigrants who tried their luck in Oregon. However unlike the Chinese and Japanese workers, Filipinos who came to Oregon were young students and scholars, privileged enough to be sponsored by the American government on their studies in the American colleges. These Filipinos were known as “Pensionados”, which term suggests that these people of prominent families in the Philippines. Screened from 1twenty thousand applicants, there were initially 100 students sent to study in the colleges and universities in the United States beginning 1903. Being a colonial territory of America after Spanish-American war, Filipinos who arrived in the United did not seem to have experienced the same labor and racial discrimination as those of the Chinese and Japanese descents.

2The educational achievements of the said Filipino scholars upon returning to the Philippines inspired other young Filipinos. In fact between 1910 and 1938, there were reportedly fourteen thousand Filipinos who immigrated to the United States who were not even sponsored by the American government. They tried their luck as house helpers, elevator attendants, bed makers, dishwashers and janitors. Among the first States they stayed during those days were Oregon and Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. In the Pacific Coast however, most Filipinos, about 60% of them, were engaged in the jobs relative to agriculture such as farming (as tenants) and as helpers in harvesting produce. Legal restrictions are to owning farmland limited their chance to economic prominence.

Like Oregon, the Washington State caters to the people of different colors and cultures. The Washington, like Oregon has been home to most Asians from Japan, China, Philippines and Hawaii. Historical data show that the Chinese were the first Asian people who migrated to Washington during the middle of the 19th century when the British warships destroyed much of their resources leaving them to near collapse (Klingle, Matthew W.). During that period, Klingle stressed that the region of Guangzhou was affected the most especially after the Opium War. The harsh effect of that war forced Chinese people to migrate to Washington hoping to find a settlement that is more peaceful and will cater to their financial and security needs.

            It was not the intention of the Asian migrant workers to stay long or to secure permanent settlement in America. The original plan was to work and earn money enough to start a living in their homeland. It did not however came that easy for most of them since America have also came to that time of economic depression which lasted for about a decade. What these migrant workers therefore did was to stay, stretch the resources they have until the depression was over.

The sojourners, the term Chinese migrant men called themselves, did not earn much as migrant workers. Most of them were not able to come back to their homelands for reason of the insufficiency of their money. Aside from this, there were other labor restrictions that forced these people to stay in the states of Washington and Oregon. As mentioned earlier, the bombing of Pearl Harbor had worsened the labor situation of the Japanese immigrants as they were forced to encamp where military men can watch them closely.  They were all suspects and they have to live with the Americans watching over their shoulders at all times. This might have been the hardest part of their stay in the strange land.

            In 1800s, the Chinese workers were originally recruited as helpers in the sugar plantation of Hawaii. There were also accounts, which said that it was California, which was one of the classic magnets of America, was the first settling area of the Chinese workers. California during those times was regarded to have owned its gold fields. From California and Hawaii, Chinese workers were driven to the workplace of the Pacific Northwest- Oregon and Washington. It was indeed of the news of gold mines in Washington, in the same way as Asian workers were attracted to work in Oregon, that Chinese workers tried their fate in Washington. A decade after, Chinese job opportunities for Asian migrant workers were stretch and widened through the recruitment in railroad construction, logging camps and even salmon canneries.

            Like those Chinese who risked their lives for wanting to enter America and secure jobs in the said country, those eager Chinese workers in Washington state seem to have similar fate because of the fact that the same features of job opportunities and the same group of people were involved. For example, the Chinese workers in Oregon were also drawn in the state by job opportunities in Hawaii and then to the gold mines in Oregon.  Because early Chinese immigrants believed that the land of the Americas was their best means of uplifting their literally poor condition, these people, like the Japanese and other Asian migrants, ignore legal restrictions of entering the states, risked their lives and their fate although most of them have succeeded in securing permanent settlement in the land of the whites in the long run.

            Earlier in their stay in Washington, the Chinese workers faced threats of their lives as they have also experienced being targets of mob violence. These were primarily due to the growing demand of cheap Chinese labor, which consequently threatened the job security of European settlers. In 1853, Chinese workers were excluded from participating in elections by virtue of the law passed in Washington similar to that of the State of California (Lee, Jennifer H., 2001).

            Working mostly in farms picking produce, cutting and milling trees, Japanese migrant workers were then the most sought workers in the state of Washington. Japanese workers were commended for being industrious workers and lowly personalities-characters innate to these Asian people that may have been their weapons of easily adapting to their new environment. In fact, in the middle of 1880s, Japanese workers dominated Hawaii’s labor force. Let us remember that like other Asian workers, they have shifted from sugar plantations, to gold mines, to picking produce and then to railroad constructions. They too have worked hard in canneries as butchers.

            Going back to Japanese laborers’ migration history, these people were drawn to the Americas primarily to escape from the harsh effects of the Meiji government, wherein farmers were severely affected. To wit, the Meiji government adopted industrialization projects and one of these would necessarily convert farmlands to industrial parks and lands for construction of buildings, railroads and to give way to other transportation facilities. Soon after these events, the Japanese people have come to Hawaii to find alternative means of providing for their families by working in the lands owned by others. Since they no longer have their own, these people have been more than willing to be tenants in order to have something to provide for their families.

In 1900 the Organic Act made Hawaii an American territory. This then opened the opportunity for Japanese workers to travel to mainland America and one of the states they found interesting to work in was Washington. During those years, Washington was offering literally high pay for its workers even to migrant workers. This attracted more workers to come to the state even those that came directly from Japan and other Asian countries. History also showed that Japanese migrant workers were able to own agricultural lands in the state of Washington like those in Oregon because of their excellent attitude towards work and also their skills in managing farmlands.

In comparison, the Filipino migrant workers have been more privileged than the Japanese, Chinese and other Asian workers in Washington. Their pattern of migration was quite different with that of their counterparts. 2As American colony, the Filipinos was also regarded as American nationals, which meant that they were entitled to the same privileges as those of the American nationals. However, while most Filipino immigrants to the mainland were American government scholars who were given the opportunity to avail of American education, there were also Filipino workers who came to Washington to become purely laborers.

The American colonization did produce good results for all Filipinos. Like the Meiji government in Japan, the Filipinos were also deprived on labor opportunities when the American government implemented industrialization projects and policies. Like the Japanese, the Filipino farmers were mostly affected. Like the Japanese workers, Filipinos who were not privileged enough to become scholars, were forced to travel to the Americas to try their fate in working for the strangers. They too have worked in salmon fisheries and in farmlands as those of the other Asian immigrants. They too have experienced the pain of racial discrimination common during those days in the Americas for those who have darker skin colors.

The military take over in the Philippines might as well be considered by Filipinos to be a gift of luck or fate especially for women. By marrying American soldiers, they found the opportunity to come to America with their husbands along with their children. Their privileges can also be compared with that of the Pensionados because they too were given special opportunities to avail of American education, only that these Fil-Americans were bound to stay in the mainland. In the early 1900s, Filipinos grew as a major segment in the population of Washington State.

Summing it up, Asian immigrants were driven to the Americas, especially to the States of Oregon and Washington by mainly harsh economic situations in their homelands. Changes in government, wars and economic depression were the first factors that these people considered when they decided to migrate. America, for these Asian immigrants can provide them with enough economic opportunities to improve their lives and to save their families from starvation. They originally did not have plans of securing permanent settlement in America but many factors forced them to stay longer than their plans.

Most of the Asian immigrants however considered their migration as successful since most of them have found their economic situations improved in Oregon and Washington. After enduring the hardships of working in sugar plantations, in the farmlands, in the gold mines, in canneries and railroad construction sites, Asian immigrants were now successful businessmen in the said States. Those who stayed sent their children to American schools, worked in American-owned and controlled companies and others became famous in different fields. Their positive outlook in life, excellent working attitudes and their faith were major factors that brought them to their success in the said states. Besides their skills and talents, these people are commended for their cognitive skills that can compete with the other races. Despite these, most of them have managed to keep their culture and tradition in their hearts. These are still evident even centuries have already passed (The National Park Service, pp.23).


1Asian American History. Retrieved on November 18, 2007 from http://www.ohs.org/education/focus_on_oregon_history/Asian-Pacific-History-Home.cfm

Oregon Historical Society. Asian Pacific History in Oregon. Retrieved on November 18, 2007 from http://www.ohs.org/education/focus_on_oregon_history/Asian-Pacific-History-Home.cfm

2Filipino Settlements in the United States. Retrieved on November 18, 2007 from http://www.google.com/search?q=filipino+migration+oregon+washington&hl=en&safe=active&rlz=1T4GZHZ_enPH234PH235&start=40&sa=N

Frey, William H.  (1999). The United States Population: Where the Immigrants Are. Retrieved on November 18, 2007 from http://www.google.com/search?q=filipino+migration+oregon+washington&hl=en&safe=active&rlz=1T4GZHZ_enPH234PH235&start=40&sa=N

3Japanese Labor in Oregon. Retrieved on November 18, 2007 from http://www.ohs.org/education/focus_on_oregon_history/APH-Document-Crating-Apples.cfm

Klingle, Matthew W. A History Bursting With Telling: Asian Americans in Washington State. A Curriculum Project for the History of the Pacific Northwest in Washington State Schools. Retrieved on November 18, 2007 from http://www.washington.edu/uwired/outreach/cspn/Website/Resources/Curriculum/Asian/Asian%20Main.html

Lee, Jennifer H. (2001). Anti-Chinese Riots in Washington State. Retrieved on November 24, 2007 from http://www.dartmouth.edu/~hist32/History/S01%20-%20Wash%20State%20riots.htm

The National Archives. Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States. Retrieved on November 24, 2007 from http://www.archives.gov/locations/finding-aids/chinese-immigration.html
The National Park Service (2001). Asian Reflections in the American Landscape: Identifying and Interpreting Asian Heritage. Asia in America. pp.1-24

Cite this Asian migration pattern into Washington and Oregon

Asian migration pattern into Washington and Oregon. (2016, Jul 30). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/asian-migration-pattern-into-washington-and-oregon/

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