The State of Nevada did not require birth certificates until 1911 so when Wong Goe Yok’s parents took him back to China in 1897, they obtained an affidavit by witnesses swearing that he was born about 1895 in American Canyon, Humboldt County, Nevada. His mother was Chun Lun and his father was Wong Ying. The affidavit was signed by John T. Reid, clerk; L. M. Donelin, Agent S. P. Co.; A. C. Brown, rancher; S. R Young, Notary Public; and George Young, Justice of the Peace. Although Humboldt County started requiring birth certificate in 1887, Wong Goe Yok’s birth was not recorded.
The affidavit was accepted as proof when Wong Goe Yok applied for admission to the United States as a native-born citizen on 11 July 1921.
American-born Yee Ho Lee left the United States for China with her family in 1918 when she was almost four years old. When she returned fifteen years later as the bride of Wong Shew Leung, a Boston merchant, the immigration inspectors did not think she was the person she claimed to be. They wanted her deported. She looked younger than her stated age; her ears did to not match the ears of the child in the photo. According to experts ears of a certain type do not change as one gets older. It was noted that the child had large flat lobes sticking out from the checks but the young woman did not have a distinct earlobe and the ear tapered “gradually from the top to the bottom and coming to a point at the cheek.” They also thought there was a difference in the eyes, the lower lip, the eyebrows and the nose.
Included in the files are exhibits of photographs, her birth certificate, and witness statements from twenty-two Chinese, many of them siblings of Yee Ho Lee. A summary of the case is five pages long.
Chinese Immigration Inspector Ira L. Hazleton was called before the review board. He considered himself an expert in Bertillon work and had about fifteen years’ experience in identification of photographs regarding questioned documents. [See Edward J. “Ed” Steenberg, Saint Paul Police Historical Society, The Bertillon System of Identification”] According to the website,
“Bertillon System was an improvement of identification over simple mug shots and basic physical measurements, and was a forerunner to fingerprinting. It was developed by French criminologist Alphonse Bertillon in the early 1880s to increase the accuracy of criminal identification by measuring certain bony portions of the body, including the skull, foot, cubit, trunk and left middle finger. This identification method spread throughout Europe and was introduced into the United States in 1887.”
Yee Ho Lee arrived in Seattle on 21 March 1933 and was held in the Immigration Detention Center on Seattle Boulevard [1933 address]. She was denied admittance on 25 April. It was appealed. There were “Page 1” articles in the Seattle Times about the case on 22 April, 26 April and 16 May 1933 and other unidentified articles in the file. At the bottom of two of the articles there was an ad- –Buy American!— [Oh, irony!]
An appeal was made by Fred H. Lysons, attorney for Yee Ho Lee’s husband and the decision was reversed. The contours of the lips of the young woman were compared to those of the child and it was decided that they belonged to the same person. Yee Ho Lee was finally admitted on 13 May 1933.
Yung Hin Lun was admitted to the United States as a Section Six student at Yale, New Haven, Connecticut in 1918. He made several trips back to China and returned again in 1920 with a merchant status. Henry M. White, U.S. Commissioner of Immigration in Seattle said that although Yung Hin Lun was not in the U.S. long enough to obtain merchant status “there appears to be absolutely no question that Yung Hin Lun is in no sense a laborer but is on the contrary a Chinese of unusually high class…”
Yung Hin Lun was an electrical engineer for China Metals and Welding Company with offices in Hong Kong and New York. His white witnesses were Mr. L. Fowle and Mr. Merle Walker, Guarantee Trust Company, New York City. Fowle said Yung Hin Lun’s family owned a large bank in China with a branch on Wall Street.
A Seattle Times article on 2 September 1919 had this headline, “Chinese Prince Visits Seattle, Acts as Secretary to Mission, Scion of Imperial Kwang Hsu, Family Perturbed Because identity is Discovered. Spends 2 Years in U. S.” With the article are photos of Prince Hin Lun and B.M. Chan.
Yung Hin Lun served in a secretarial capacity for Dr. T. Hsieh, representative of the Chinese Merchants’ Guilds, who was in the U.S.to promote Chinese diplomatic and commercial interest. They were accompanied by B. M. Chan, a multi-millionaire banker from Havana, Cuba.
Philip Henry Chin, the son of Charles and Elizabeth Chin Tin (Din), was born on 27 January 1883 in New York City. His baptismal certificate from Methodist Episcopal Church was signed by S. I. Ferguson on 25 February 1883. The certificate says, “…he shall be taught the nature and end of this Holy Sacrament, and all other things which a Christian ought to know and believe, in order to [lead] a virtuous and holy life, was this day baptized…”
A few years later the family moved to San Francisco.
Philip applied for a return certificate in 1923. He stated that his mother died in 1887 and his father died in 1891; both died in San Francisco. Philip lived with his older brother, Harry Chin (Chin Shew Yick) after their parents died. Philip and his brother moved to Chicago about 1892, a year before the World’s Fair. Harry was eight years older that Philip.
The Department of Health, City of New York, Borough of Manhattan searched their records but could not find a copy of Philip’s birth certificate. On 30 January 1925, Philip used his baptismal certificate to prove his birth in order to obtain his Certificate of Identity # 54453.
According to William H. Tomkins, Immigrant Inspector, San Francisco, “…that the alleged mother was a white woman.” “The applicant seems to have full command of the English language, that is a further point consistent with being born to a white mother.” The mother’s name is not given. Tomkins recommended that the application be approved.
Philip Henry Chin left for China in 1923 and returned through Seattle on 4 January 1925. He was married to Wang Shee while in China and his marriage name became Chung Hing. He made another trip to China in 1928 and when he returned through Seattle on 30 May 1930 he reported that he had a two-year old son named Wee Lee in China.
Who remembers telegrams? They were frequently used to communicate in 1933. This ad was on the telegram included in Louie Kin Hong’s file.
Chan Suey Ping’s infant son, (Stanley) Fook Chin Lee, was refused admission at the Port of Seattle but permitted by the Secretary of Labor to remain in the United States for six months until 7 March 1930.
Chan Suey Ping was born in 1902 at Napa, California and a citizen of the United States. In 1925 she visited China and married Chiu Hang Lee, a citizen of China and of the Chinese race. Under the terms of the 1922 Cable Act, she lost her U.S. citizenship. Chiu Hang Lee came to the U.S. with a student status and she accompanied him with a “wife of student status.” In about 1927 they had twin boys, born in Berkeley, California. They went back to China in March 1928 to visit Chiu Hang Lee’s elderly mother who was ill. They left their sons with Chan Suey Ping’s mother in Napa. Chan Suey Ping was pregnant when they left and their son, Lee Fook Chin, was born in China.
By the time Chan Suey Ping was ready to return to the U.S., Lee Fook Chin, was four months old. Even though Chan Suey Ping was born in the U.S., her son was excludable under the Chinese Exclusion Act. Since he was born in China, according to officials he was “consequently helpless from infancy, it seemed absolutely necessary to also exclude his mother as an accompanying alien.”
Included in the file is an editorial from The Seattle Daily Times published on 24 February 1929, on page 6. The headline is “Common Sense is Needed.” The piece included these statements: “The decision of the U.S. immigration authorities…may be based upon statutory law, but it is contrary to every decent conception of humanity and common sense.” “She and her husband are graduates of Stanford University.” ”It is inconceivable the exclusion act is so precise in its terms that it does not permit some discretion on the part of responsible authorities.” ”America does not appear in an enviable light when the country’s officers can and do deal so callously.”
Chan Suey Ping, her American-born two-year-old twins, Bert Y. Kynn Lee and Allan Wy Synn Lee, and baby, Stanley Fook Chin Lee, returned to China on 6 November 1929.