Since the early 1900s, Filipino immigration to the United States has reflected a complex combination of push and pull factors. Between 1898, when the U.S. took control of the Philippines from Spain (see also: New Colonies and Territories Shape Migration, 1898), through 1934, Filipino immigration to the continental U.S. was unrestricted. Poverty and lack of economic opportunity in the Ilocano islands pushed migrants toward the United States where they worked in agriculture, fishing, and canning. At the same time, the opportunity to enroll in U.S. colleges in universities through the 1903 Pensionado Act attracted students. Filipino immigrants settled mainly in Hawaii, California, Washington State, and New York.
In 1934, however, Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act, imposing limitations on Filipino migration to the United States. Officially known as the Philippine Independence Act, it granted the Philippines commonwealth status and put it on a ten-year path to independence. The Philippines were forced to comply with the quota system, instituted by the by the Immigration Act of 1924 (see also: Country of Origin Quotas cuts Immigration 1921-1924), allowing just 50 persons per year to immigrate to the U.S. However, in 1942, the Tydings-McDuffie Act was revised to allow for the recruitment of Filipinos to fight for the United States in World War II. Despite the service of approximately 250,000 Filipinos, after the war, the 1946 Recession Act stripped them of their promised veterans’ rights and services. That same year, the Luce-Celler Act increased the quota system to allow one hundred Filipinos to immigrate to the U.S annually. A year later, the U.S. Navy was granted the rights to recruit Filipino workers, bringing nearly 20,000 Filipinos to work in the Navy’s mess halls by 1970.