Nativists Next Target: Filipinos

Nativist organizations responded to Filipino demands by sponsoring legislation for the island’s independence. The American Federation of Labor was a strong advocate for immigration exclusion on the basis of economic protections for white populations. The Madera Daily Tribune reported, “The federation at its annual convention adopted a resolution containing the demand for ‘immediate effective immigration restrictions of Filipino labor without having to wait for approval of an independence bill by the Filipino people.’” This local demand reveals a deviation in the American strategy for the Philippines. Kramer argues, “After nearly fifty years, the United States had achieved ‘independence’ from its colony; formal Philippine independence would be born as an act of American racial insularity.” The narrative of this colonial relationship originally depended on the United States’ recognition of the Philippines’ ability to self-govern. The nativist sentiment transformed foreign policy and instead gave the Philippines their independence while establishing an anti-Asian perspective of the newly freed island.


Roosevelt provides the Philippines their Independence

The Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 granted the Philippines domestic autonomy by allowing the election of the country’s first Filipino President, set a date for full independence, and restricted Filipino migration to the mainland by applying limited quotas equal to other Asian populations. This new relationship still had ties to the Philippine-American colonial past. Ngai argues, “Independence, under commonwealth status, reproduced many features of the colonial relationship. Citizens of the Philippine Commonwealth continued to owe allegiance to the United States, yet the act declared that ‘citizens of the Philippine Islands who are not citizens of the United States shall be considered as if they are aliens.’” This new desigation as 'alien' legally placed Filipinos outside the realm of citizenship and the ability to naturalize. Filipinos had now felt similiar political and legal exclusions as their other Asian brothers; yet they still owed their alliegence to the American flag flying over Manila. 

The Philippine Commonwealth emerged and remained present in American newspapers and political debates. The 1940s retained nativist perception of the Filipino population but these stereotypes and assumptions would soon be confronted by the emergence of World War II and the increased aggression of Japan in the Pacific.

Pre-World War II Philippine-American Relations
Nativists Next Target: Filipinos