By now, we've covered the shocking institutionalized racism faced by immigrants to the United States in the 19th century a few times. We think it's important to acknowledge and learn from mistakes of the past, but sometimes the way we tell histories of immigration focuses less on the immigrants themselves than on government and popular responses to the immigrants.
Recently, JSTOR Daily highlighted an article by Andrea Pugsley, originally published in a 2003 issue of the Journal of Arizona History, that is devoted to providing an in-depth look at how one immigrant community organized to oppose legal discrimination in the late 19th century. The community in question is immigrants of Chinese origin living in Arizona, where they were subject to laws unfairly targeting people and especially business owners of Chinese origin.
"But, as Pugsley showed, the Chinese fought back, determined to use the courts to battle discrimination. They and their lawyers argued that the 14th amendment’s 'equal protection' applied to citizens and non-citizens alike; that courts could and should consider the motivations behind the passage of laws, as well as how laws were actually administered. Sometimes they even won their cases."