This law prohibited the importation of unfree laborers and women brought for “immoral purposes” but was enforced primarily against Chinese. Legislated amid the spread of anti-Chinese fervor from the west coast to the rest of the United States, this law was an early effort to restrict Asian immigration without categorically restricting Asian immigration on the basis of race and instead restricted select categories of persons whose labor was perceived as immoral or coerced.
The Page Act of 1875 ( Immigration Act)
FORTY-THIRD CONGRESS. SESS. II. CH. 141. 1875. CHAP. 141.-
An act supplementary to the acts in relation to immigration.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in determining whether the immigration of any subject of China, Japan, or any Oriental country, to the United States, is free and voluntary . . . it shall be the duty of the consul-general or consul of the United States residing at the port from which it is proposed to convey such subjects . . . to ascertain whether such immigrant has entered into a contract or agreement for a term of service within the United States, for lewd and immoral purposes; and if there be such contract or agreement, the said consul-general or consul shall not deliver the required permit or certificate.
SEC. 2. That if any citizen of the United States, or other person amenable to the laws of the United States shall take, or cause to be taken or transported, to or from the United States any subject of China, Japan, or any Oriental country, without their free and voluntary consent, for the purpose of holding them to a term of service, such citizen or other person shall be liable to be indicted therefore, and, on conviction of such offense, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars and be imprisoned not exceeding one year; and all contracts and agreements for a term of service of such persons in the United States, whether made in advance or in pursuance of such illegal importation, and whether such importation shall have been in American or other vessels, are hereby declared void.