“A Day too Late”
“A Day too Late”
Age, Immigration Quotas, and Racial Exclusion
In this chapter, Yuki Oda examines the way that age determined whether or not immigrants could be admitted to the United States under immigration quotas and racial exclusion laws. After 1921, age worked in different ways depending on race. For European immigrants, the crucial ages were either eighteen or twenty-one, depending on the definition of what constituted a minor child (it changed over time). Families that wanted their children to follow them to the United States needed them to do so before they became legal adults. But in order to make these claims, immigrants had to naturalize before they sent for their relatives. This increasingly meant that while parents waited to naturalize, some children grew too old to immigrate. In contrast to European immigrants, American citizen children of Asian descent who were born abroad risked losing their citizenship altogether if they did not begin to live in the United States before reaching a certain age. In both cases, age intersected with race and ethnicity to define who could and could not enter the United States legally and who had the right to claim U.S. citizenship.
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