People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Filipino Americans

About the Filipino Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Filipino-Americans and more.


Where They Came From: The present population of Filipino Americans came in two great waves of immigration. The first, from the mid-to late 1920s, brought many immigrants to the U.S. directly from the Philippine Islands. Others came from Hawaii, where they had been working on sugar plantations. The second wave was a result of the 1865 Immigration Act, which repealed the national origin quota system.

Why They Left: Filipinos who migrated to the U.S. left their native country to improve their economic conditions. Many of the first immigrants were laborers and farm workers whose move to the U.S. was initiated by the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, which excluded Japanese immigrants from obtaining citizenship. Farmers in California and cannery operators in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska who had depended on cheap Japanese labor began recruiting workers from the Philippines. Also among the early arrivals were students seeking better training for professional careers.

Where They Settled: Most of the new arrivals entered the country in the ports serving San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, and settled nearby, finding work on farms or in canneries. A few moved on to the Midwest and East and now live in the urban centers.

Numbers: In the early part of the century, Filipino immigration was slow. In 1910, for example, there were 160 Filipinos in the U.S. In 1920 there were 5,603. But in 1930, as a result of the limitations on Japanese immigration, the figure reached 45,208, two thirds of whom lived in California.

The second wave of immigration, caused by the 1965 Immigration Act, brought 98.377 Filipinos to the U.S. between 1961 and 1970. Numbers continued to increase, and during 1973 alone, 30,248 Filipinos came to the U.S. By 1974 it was estimated that there were 494,169 Filipinos in the U.S.

Their Story in America: The story begins in 1898, after the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. decided to annex the Philippine Islands. Rebel Filipino forces, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, fought for independence from American rule for two years but were ultimately defeated.

After the Philippine Islands were acquired by the U.S. Filipinos were given the status of nationals and were ostensibly citizens entitled to the same constitutional rights as American citizens. But in actuality Filipinos were denied these rights during the period they remained nationals of the U.S., from 1898 until 1934, when they lost many rights altogether as a result of the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Independence Act, which changed their status to that of aliens.

The students who came to America, though, received quite favorable treatment, since they had come to receive an education and were going back to their own country.

The Filipinos who began to immigrate in the mid-1920s as laborers and farm workers met a different reception. "No Filipinos Wanted" was a common sign on the West Coast.

Filipino laborers worked under poor conditions for low wages, and racial antipathy toward them increased as they became a competitive force in the western labor market.

In 1935 the Filipino Repatriation Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt, and 2,190 Filipinos were repatriated between that year and 1940, when the law expired.

However, in spite of the discrimination problems they have faced in the U.S., Filipino Americans, who continue to maintain strong family ties, are beginning to be employed in professional fields, particularly business and medicine.

Famous Filipino American: Former football quarterback Roman Gabriel.

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