Early California, Immigrants' Rights, Race: 1870
Congress passes the Civil Rights Act to protect freed slaves, but it includes provisions to ensure the right of Chinese immigrants to testify in court and prohibits state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes, licenses, or penalties on Chinese.
San Francisco passes the “Cubic Air” ordinance requiring every lodging house to provide at least 500 cubic feet of air per inhabitant. Though many overcrowded buildings exist in poor areas of San Francisco, this ordinance is enforced only in Chinatown. Many violators serve jail time rather than pay fines, so the city passes the “Queue” ordinance, requiring that male prisoners’ hair be cut to an inch of their scalps, as a means to force Chinese to pay fines.
Ho Ah Kow successfully sues to overturn the “queue” ordinance after his queue is cut off in jail. This was the first federal case to rule clearly that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to noncitizens.
San Francisco supervisors pass the “Sidewalk Ordinance of 1870,” imposing the highest laundry license fee (more than 7 times the lowest fee) on laundries that do not use horse-drawn vehicles. The law targets Chinese laundrymen, who carry finished laundry to their customers on poles as they walk through the streets. Over the next 14 years, San Francisco passes other ordinances restricting the operation of laundries.