Filipino Migration to the U.S.

Racial Riots

Because of jealousy and hatred of the Filipinos, Caucasian Americans precipitated racial violence. The first race riot occurred in Exeter, California, on the night of October 24, 1929 after the Americans were displaced by Filipinos in harvesting Kadota figs and Emperor grapes. A mob of 300 men stormed a Filipino camp, stoned and clubbed about 50 Filipinos, and burned the barn. About 200 Filipinos were driven out of the district.

The most explosive riot occurred in Watsonville where Filipinos had been constantly harassed. The Northern Monterey Chamber of Commerce adopted anti-Filipino resolutions. On January 11, 1930, a small Filipino club leased a dance hall from two Americans in Palm Beach. The thought of Filipinos dancing with white women angered Watsonville citizens. On January 20, 1930, about 200 Americans hunted Filipinos on the streets, and on the following day, the dance hall was raided. Two days later, Filipinos were beaten and one was killed by a mob of 500 white Americans who also destroyed the Filipino quarters.

On January 28, 1930, a Filipino clubhouse in Stockton was dynamited. In August, 1930, a bundle of dynamite was also thrown in the camp of 100 sleeping Filipinos near Reedley in protest over the presence of 500 Filipinos in the region. The whites were angered by alleged undercutting of wages committed by the Filipinos.

Minor riots and clashes occurred in Filipino communities in San Jose and San Francisco. The Filipinos were attacked after they took over the jobs of the Americans. The Filipino presence was blamed for the decline of wages of fig, lettuce, and asparagus harvesters.

For several years, lobby groups in California led by American laborers had lobbied to bar Filipinos from the U.S., which was similar to the exclusion policy against the Chinese and Japanese. In 1929, the California legislature passed a resolution calling for a congressional enactment to restrict Filipino immigration. Together with exclusion, there were persistent calls for the repatriation of the Filipinos. The Great Depression exacerbated race relations and provided more compelling reasons to restrict Filipino migration. In 1935, the U.S Congress passed the Repatriation Act calling for Filipino repatriation. Most of the Filipinos preferred to remain in California than be repatriated, and only 2,190 Filipinos ended up returning home to the Philippines.