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Brokering ServitudeMigration and the Politics of Domestic Labor during the Long Nineteenth Century$
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Andrew Urban

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780814785843

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814785843.001.0001

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Bonded Chinese Servants

Bonded Chinese Servants

Domestic Labor and Exclusion, 1882–1924

(p.188) 5 Bonded Chinese Servants
Brokering Servitude

Andrew Urban

NYU Press

Chapter 5 examines Chinese servants who were exempted from the exclusion laws and granted temporary admission as laborers. It argues that immigration officials implemented post-entry controls that were aimed at containment rather than protection. Following the passage of the 1882 Chinese Restriction Act, immigration officials brokered special arrangements that allowed white employers to continue to enter the country with Chinese servants in their employ, so long as they took out surety bonds that indemnified the government against the possibility that their Chinese servants might leave their service and remain in the United States on an unauthorized basis. The temporary admission of Chinese servants and their bonded condition offered an incipient version of a guestworker program. Chinese immigrant servants who lived in the United States legally—as well as birthright American citizens of Chinese descent—were also subject to various requirements by immigration officials that reinforced these workers’ dependency on white employers. The testimony of white employers was a crucial factor in determining whether Chinese servants would be credentialed as authorized residents. This was essential to avoiding deportation but also to being allowed to depart and reenter the United States.

Keywords:   Chinese servants, surety bonds, deportation, post-entry controls, Chinese Restriction Act

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