In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, basically prohibiting any and all Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States.
Anti-Chinese sentiment had been building since the California Gold Rush of 1848. Some claimed that the foreign workers depressed wages for the rest of the labor force. But racism, to varying degrees, was behind the act.
Smuggling rings in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona did their best to sneak Chinese males into the country—and had some success. But the law, which was supposed to last 10 years, was not repealed until 1943.