Timeline: Asian-American History, 1950-Present

Updated July 22, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Asian immigration to America, 1600s to the present

by David Johnson
1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s Back to Beginning


McCarran-Walter Act abolishes race an immigration criterion, sets quotas by nation.


California repeals alien landownership laws. Dalip Singh is elected to Congress from California's Imperial Valley.


Daniel K. Inouye elected U.S. Senator and Spark Matsunaga elected to Congress, both from Hawaii.


Patsy Takemoto Mink elected to Congress from Hawaii.


Immigration Act abolishes country preferences. Asian immigration increases.


Immigrants arrive from Communist regimes in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos following Vietnam War.


Resumption of diplomatic relations between U.S. and People's Republic of China increases immigration from China.


Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian American astronaut, lifts off on the Space Shuttle Discovery. After accomplishing the payload mission, and completing 48 orbits of Earth, Discovery returns to Earth.


Ellison Onizuka and six fellow crew mates die onboard the Space Shuttle Challenger when it exploded during liftoff.


In wake of record immigration, both legal and illegal, Congress sought to limit number of illegal aliens in U.S.


President George Bush signs law to pay each survivor of Japanese internment camps $20,000.


Immigration Act raised the total quota and reorganized system of preferences. Nearly 5 million immigrants arrive from Asian countries.


Connie Chung becomes the first Asian American to be a nightly news anchor for a major network (CBS).


Gary Locke is elected governor of the state of Washington. He is the first Asian American governor of a state on the mainland.


Gary Locke is easily reelected governor of the state of Washington.


Norman Yohsio Mineta is appointed Secretary of Commerce for the Bill Clinton administration.


Norman Yohsio Mineta becomes the first cabinet member to switch directly from a Democratic to a Republican cabinet. Mineta's position is changed to Secretary of Transporation. He is the only Democrat in George W. Bush's administration.


Elaine Chao is appointed Secretary of Labor. She is the first female Asian American cabinet member.


Anh Cao wins a special election for a seat in the House of Representatives, representing New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress.


President Barack Obama names Gary Locke to be Secretary of Commerce, Eric Shinseki to be Secretary of Veterans' Affairs, and Stephen Chu to be Secretary of Energy.


When appointed interim chief of staff for President Barack Obama, Peter M. Rouse becomes the first Asian American to fill this position (his mother was Japanese).


Democrat Mazie Hirono becomes the country's first Asian-American female senator. She is also Hawaii's first-ever female U.S. senator. In addition, she's the first senator born in Japan.

The Pew Research Center releases an updated study which shows that Asians surpass Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the United States.


On March 3, the first Asian American U.S. Marine Officer, Maj. Kurt Chew-Een Lee, dies at the age of 88. A decorated Korean War veteran, Lee received the Navy Cross, the second-highest honor for Marines, the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, and many more military honors.

Eleven-year-old Aditya Sriram wins the SuperMath Grand Champion award in its 31st annual competition, becoming not only the first Indian American to win, but also the youngest person to ever win. Sriram beat out 200 abacus-wielding competitors.


Although Asians continue to comprise the single largest source of new immigrants, they make up 6% of the total U.S. population, compared with 18% for Hispanics, according to the Pew Research Center.

Related Links

Sources +