chapter  6
“Temporary Workers” in American Law and Society Since 1990
Pages 14

One of the most dramatic changes in immigration trends over the last fifteen years has been the explosive growth of “non-immigrants” coming into the United States under various employment categories. As mentioned in the last chapter, non-immigrants are people who typically do not intend to stay in the United States: in late 19th-century immigration law, they were tourists, students, or merchants. Even the Chinese Exclusion Act exempted such classes of Chinese persons from exclusion, largely because they were “ temporary,” and because they would leave after conducting affairs considered mutually beneficial for both them and the United States. Chinese merchants were especially accorded deference in the law, for even in the midst of race-based exclusion, federal judges noted that “commerce with China is of the greatest value, and is constantly increasing,” such that immigration officials ought to avoid “unnecessary and embarrassing restrictions” against Chinese merchants.1