First Chinese seamen granted shore leave in wartime America. Chinese seamen on United Nations' vessels may now obtain shore leave in American ports. Heretofore, because of the large number of desertions by Chinese crew members, alien seamen of Chinese nationality have been detained on board when their ships touched American ports. As a result of conferences between representatives of the Chinese Embassy, the Recruitment and Manning Organization of War Shipping Administration, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Department of Justice, Chinese seamen may now be granted shore leave if guarantees are given that they will not desert. Chinese Counsul General Lee (holding hat) greeting one of his countrymen from the crew of a British vessel in New York. Lee met the men on arrival and explained the rules under which, for the first time in warring America, they were permitted ashore during their ship's stay in port
In the 19th century, a majority of Chinese immigrants were single men who worked for a while and returned home. At first, they were attracted to North America by the gold rush in California. A relatively large group of Chinese immigrated to the United States between the start of the California gold rush in 1849 and 1882, before federal law stopped their immigration. After the gold rush, Chinese immigrants worked as agricultural laborers, on railroad construction crews throughout the West, and in low-paying industrial jobs. Soon, many opened their own businesses such as restaurants, laundries, and other personal service concerns. With the onset of hard economic times in the 1870s, European immigrants and Americans began to compete for the jobs traditionally reserved for the Chinese. Such competition was accompanied by anti-Chinese sentiment, riots, and pressure, especially in California, for the exclusion of Chinese immigrants from the United States. The result was the Chinese Exclusion Act, passed by Congress in 1882. This Act virtually ended Chinese immigration for nearly a century.