Tag Archives: Arizona

Tom Chon How – at detention center for almost a year and a half

Tom Chon How aff photo1939Tom Chon How aff Tom Bing Koon 1939

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Tom Chon How and Tom Bing Koon affidavit photos,” 1939, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Tom Chon How case file, Seattle Box 799, file 7030/13041.

Tom Chon How arrived at the Port of Seattle on 20 November 1939. She was admitted almost a year and a half later on 10 May 1941. Her file was over 70 pages long. After her father, Tom Ngon Sing, died in China she decided to come to the U.S. to live with her brother, Tom Bing Koon, in San Diego, California. Since she was the daughter of a U.S. native-born citizen she would or should have been considered a citizen. She was born on 20 December 1907 in Seung Sing, Tin Hong, Toy San, China. Her step-mother paid for her passage over. Tom Chon How was a school teacher.

In 1938 her brother, Tom Bing Koon, of San Diego, California, swore in an affidavit that his father, Tom Ngon Sing, was a native born citizen. His citizenship was proved by record #9544 on file at the U.S. District Court of Northern California. Tom Bing Koon was 42 years old in 1939 and came to the United States at age thirteen. He swore that his sister, Tom Chon How, the daughter of Tom Ngon Sing, was coming to the United States to live with him.

During Tom Chon How’s arrival testimony she was asked about her extended family in the U.S. and in China, in particular her nephew Hom (Tom) Tung Hing. She claimed that he died in 1931 on his way back to China. The examiner said that the alleged Hom (Tom) Tung Hing was admitted at Seattle in December 1939.

A warrant of arrest was issued for Tom Tung Hing. He was found in Tucson, Arizona and he gave a statement. He claimed he was the true Tom Tung Hing and Tom Chon How was lying; that the information she gave the investigators was false. Immigration officials began an investigation in Minneapolis (the nephew’s father was living in Minneapolis at some point) and San Diego.

There were huge and small discrepancies in Tom Chon How’s and her brother’s testimony in the description of their native village. The examiner noted that Tom Bing Koon had not been in China for more than twenty-three year. He had never met his nephew so he could not identify him.

Tom Chon How was interviewed again in March 1940. Most of the questioning centered on her home village—how many rows of houses, how many houses in each row, who lived where, and details about the neighbors.

This is a section of a translated letter that Tom Chon How (also known as Tom Jung How or Jung Ho) wrote to the immigration officers after being at the detention center for many months:Tom Chon How letter Apr 1940
“Tom Chon How letter,” 1940, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Tom Chon How case file, Seattle Box 799, file 7030/13041.

After reading the transcription of the deportation proceedings for Hom Tung Hing, Immigration authorities decided to question Tom Chon How again. By July 1940, a decision had not been reached as to admit or deport her. Her case hinged on Hom Tung Hing’s case. A month later the F.B.I. was comparing the handwriting samples of the Hom Ting Hing who left the U.S. in 1931 with the Hom Ting Hing who was admitted to the U.S. in 1939. Which one was a forgery?

The hearings were resumed on 7 March 1941. Tom Chon How was asked to show the layout of her village. Her diagrams were compared to the maps she constructed in March 1940. She was asked about the differences. She said she couldn’t remember exactly how many houses there were in her village because she hardly ever walked in some parts of the village. [After being in detention since November 1939, she sounded weary.]

The next day she was transferred to Seattle Marine Hospital for examination and treatment. She was suffering from severe nausea.

Immigration decided to interview Yip Shee, the wife of Tom Bing Koon, Tom Chon How’s brother. Yip Shee and Tom Bing Koon married in 1916 and came to the U. S. in 1919. In 1941 Immigration officials interviewed her about her husband’s home village; over twenty years after they left the country. There were significant discrepancies about the village in Yip Shee’s testimony but she gave some helpful information. She remembered that Tom Chon How seriously cut the index finger of her right hand when she was about ten years old. Yip Shee bandaged it for her. The inspectors checked Tom Chon How’s hand. She had a scar that matched Yip Shee’s description. They now believed Tom Chon How was the person she claimed to be.

Inspector J. P. Sanderson, chairman of the inquiry, wrote in his three-page summary of the case that Tom Tung Hing’s arrest warrant was canceled. Although Sanderson did not agree with the determination of Tom Tung Hing’s admittance in 1939, Tom Tung Hing was not deported.

Tom Chon How’s case was delayed considerably because she consistently maintained that Tom Tung Hing died in 1931. The immigration inspectors agreed that if the information on Tom Tung Hing was ignored, the applicant should be admitted. Tom Chon How was admitted at the Port of Seattle on 10 May 1941.

Mable June Lee – Princess for 1939 Oregon Winter Sports Carnival

Photo of Mable June Lee
“Form 430 Photo of Lee Wun Jun (Mable June Lee),“ 1939, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Lee Wun Jun case file, Portland Box 100, 5017/891.

Mable June Lee, a princess for the 1939 Oregon Winter Sports Carnival, was applying to leave Portland to publicize Oregon and Mount Hood in Mexico. She and the royal court traveled to Nogales, Arizona, then spent five days in Mexico City and returned via El Paso, TX. The trip was made by train and would take three weeks.
Mable was 21 years old and born in Portland. She was a checker at the Orange Lantern Tea Room in Portland.
Mable’s brother, Lee Shear Nuey, also known as Louis Lee, was a witness for her. Their parents were both dead and were buried River View Cemetery in Portland. According to C. J. Wise, the examining inspector, Lee spoke English perfectly. Lee did not know much about his grandparents; they had all died in China many years ago. Besides Mable he had two sisters and three brothers: Lee Lin (Mrs. Chin Chow), Lee Tai Hai (died of the flu in Portland in 1919 and buried in the Lone Fir Cemetery), Lee Tommy Shear Gong (born on the boat crossing from China about 1914 on his parents’ one visit to China. He was now living in Stockton, CA), Lee Shear Gum, a chef at Green Mill in Portland and another brother living in Cuba.
Lee Lin, Mable’s older sister, was also a witness for her. Lee Lin was born in San Francisco in 1894. She was married to Chin Chow and they had seven children—two boys and five girls. Her daughter Dorothy Chin Kum was adopted out to Mrs. Sing Ho. She also had a daughter, Ah Me, who died of the flu.
Mable’s file includes a certified copy of her birth certificate and her itinerary for her trip to Mexico City.

Mabel June Lee birth certificate
“1917 Oregon Birth Certificate for Mabel [sic] June Lee & 1939 Itinerary for Oregon Winter Sports Association ,“ Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Lee Wun Jun case file, Portland Box 100, 5017/891.
Lee Wun Jun Mexico City Schedule

According to an article [not included in the file] in the Oregonian on 25 February 1939, the royal court consisted of Queen Fern Lorenzini, Crown Princess, Dorothy Olivera; and princesses: Norma Cowling, Maryanne Hill, Mable Jean Lee and June Long.