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Legacies of Exclusion: Illegal Chinese Immigration during the Cold War Years Author(s): Mae M. Ngai Source:

Legacies of Exclusion: Illegal Chinese Immigration during the Cold War Years Author(s): Mae M. Ngai Source: Journal of American Ethnic History, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Fall, 1998), pp. 3-35 Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Immigration & Ethnic History Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 09/12/2014 17:10

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Legacies of Exclusion:

Illegal Chinese Immigration during the Cold War Years


EXCLUSION INFORMED THE Chinese American historical experi ence in many ways. It codified Chinese as the racial “other” in America?

unwanted, unassimilable, ineligible to citizenship. It justified the segre

gation and marginalization of Chinese from the mainstream of Ameri

can social and economic life. Its consequences included the transoceanic

separation of families and the development of a largely homosocial

culture in the United States.1 And, because illegal entry is a concomitant

of all restrictive immigration policy, exclusion also created a large popu lation of Chinese illegal immigrants in America. Data from the United

States Immigration and Naturalization Service indicate that at least 25

percent of the Chinese American population in 1950 was illegal.2 Most of the illegal population comprised “paper sons,” tens of thou

sands of Chinese who entered the United States during the first half of the twentieth century by posing as the sons of Chinese with American

citizenship by native birth. The widespread practice of paper immigra tion during the exclusion period not only exacerbated the stigma of

illegitimacy associated with exclusion, but also reinforced the isolation

and insularity of Chinatown communities by requiring immigrants to

maintain complex internal networks of protection.3 After Congress repealed the Chinese exclusion laws in 1943, and

especially after World War II, Chinese Americans and the federal gov ernment both grappled with this particular legacy of exclusion. Chinese

Americans hoped to resolve the problems of social isolation and family

separation that resulted from exclusion and illegal immigration. Govern

ment authorities, long frustrated by their inability to end the system of

paper immigration, found in the context of the anti-China politics of the

Cold War a new urgency to eliminate that system. During the mid

1950s the United States Departments of State and Justice waged a coor

dinated campaign against paper immigration, culminating in a “Chinese

Confession Program” sponsored by the Immigration and Naturalization

Service (INS). In exchange for information that exposed the false gene

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4 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

alogies that perpetuated the immigration of paper sons, the INS pledged to assist confessors to obtain legal status.

The vast majority of the 30,000 people who were involved in the

Confession Program did, in fact, become legally resident aliens or natu

ralized citizens. The program thus benefited a large segment of the

Chinese American population. At the same time, the government’s cam

paign against illegal immigration and the administration of the Confes

sion Program by the INS ensnared Chinese Americans in a dynamic which combined Cold War and racial politics, compromising the legiti

macy of their newly won legal status. This article investigates the events

and conditions during the post-exclusion, Cold War years that set the

terms and conditions for ending the system of paper immigration and

considers how, in the process, the place of Chinese in America was

renegotiated and redefined.

“GOING WAY BACK, THE WHOLE GANG’S ILLEGAL:’ ?General Joseph Swing, Commissioner of Immigration

The Chinese exclusion laws (1882-1943) barred all Chinese from

entering the United States save for merchants and their families, stu

dents, treaty traders, and diplomats.4 Although many Chinese laborers

entered the United States by surreptitiously crossing the Mexican or

Canadian border, many more gained entry by posing as persons who

were legally admissible, often with fraudulent certificates identifying them as merchants. Increasingly, Chinese seeking entry into the United

States claimed to be American citizens by native birth or the China-born

sons of those citizens?known formally as derivative citizens.5 Between

1920 and 1940, 71,040 Chinese entered the United States as derivative


Central to the problem of illegal Chinese immigration was the inabil

ity of state authorities to authenticate the identity of Chinese entering the United States. Most Chinese made their initial claim to American

citizenship without documented proof. Ultimately the government it

self?the federal courts, the INS, and the State Department?created and conceded documentation of identity and citizenship to Chinese la

borers entering the United States. Typically, during the first decades of

the twentieth century, young Chinese men arriving in America claimed

that they were born in the United States and taken back to China at a

young age by their parents. It has become nearly legendary that the

destruction of the San Francisco Hall of Records by the earthquake and

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Ngai 5

fire of 1906 enabled Chinese to assert native-birth citizenship because

no records survived to contradict them. Chinese entering as citizens at

the turn of the century were also aided by the unwitting practice of the

courts, to which many Chinese turned in order to overturn unfavorable

decisions made by customs and immigration inspectors. Although judges

sitting on the federal bench at the turn of the century supported the

policy of Chinese exclusion and believed that Chinese witnesses lied in

hearings, they often were, to use Lucy Salyer’s phrase, “captives of the

law,” especially the tradition of habeas corpus and rules of evidence.

The court felt obligated to hear habeas corpus cases, and once Chinese

petitioners gained a hearing they found the courts inclined to accept uncontradicted oral testimony. Between 1891 and 1905 the United States

district and circuit courts in San Francisco heard over 2,500 cases brought

by Chinese petitioners and ruled favorably in over 60 percent of them.7

The courts’ rulings became the documentation for American citizenship and the foundation of citizenship for future generations.

The experience of the Yee family is illustrative. On 28 September

1903, Yee Ot Wah, aged 28, arrived in San Francisco on the SS Doric.

He claimed he was an American citizen by native birth, but produced no

witnesses to testify on his behalf. The immigration inspector refused to

land him and ordered him deported. Yee filed a writ of habeas corpus in

District Court. At his hearing, a man named Yee Chuck Wah testified as

his brother. Yee Chuck Wah said that Yee Ot Wah was born in 1875 on

Clay Street in San Francisco and, when he was four years old, was taken

back to China by his parents. On the strength of the brother’s sworn

testimony, Judge John DeHaven discharged Yee Ot Wah as a citizen.

In March 1922, Yee Ying Toy arrived at San Francisco, claiming to

be Yee Ot Wah’s son and thus a citizen by derivation. Yee Ying Toy said he had no witness because his father died of typhoid in 1906, but he

presented the latter’s discharge papers from the District Court as proof of his father’s citizenship. An attorney for Yee Ying Toy said the father’s

death certificate was destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906. How

ever, immigration officials located the mortuary records of one “Yee

Dot Wa,” a 44-year old unmarried laborer who died of tuberculosis in

1906. Yee Ying Toy was admitted on the basis of this evidence, albeit

an imperfect corroboration.

In 1969, Yee Ying Toy, who was at this time 56 years old, appeared at the INS office in Detroit and confessed that he was not the true son of

Yee Ot Wah. He confessed that his true father had paid $2,000 for the

papers of Yee Ot Wah so he could immigrate to the United States. Yee’s

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6 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

confession further revealed that he had two paper brothers, that is, two

others who had also immigrated as sons of Yee Ot Wah; one was a true

nephew of Yee Ot Wah and one, like Yee Ying Toy, was no relation.

Moreover, Yee Ying Toy confessed that he had, in turn, brought in two

of his own true sons using the Yee family name, and had also reported to the INS the birth of a third, fictitious, son in China.8

Thus Chinese immigrants created a system of illegal entry built en

tirely upon a paper trail derived from the state’s very efforts to enforce

exclusion. In many instances, documentation supporting the identity of

two or three generations of American citizens?including certificates of

identity and citizenship, passports, and an ongoing registry of names of

children born in China to American citizens?rested on a slender reed of

evidence: an oral claim. Moreover, the authorities’ interrogations of

Chinese claimants and their witnesses about family history and the de

tails of village life, which were originally devised to uncover fraud by

finding discrepancies in testimonies, turned into something of its oppo site by creating a record of facts which could be coached, memorized, and recited. The interrogations became increasingly elaborate over the

years, but if that made the process of memorization and recitation more

difficult it did not solve the state’s problem, it only enlarged the body of

evidence.9 The logic of enforcing exclusion compelled immigration offi

cials to impose an upward spiral of evidentiary requirements upon Chi

nese immigrants. But, at the same time, the authorities mistrusted the

entire register of documentation that they had created. Captives of their

bureaucratic procedures, immigration officials were indignant that they were mocked by impostors?immigration officials frequently remarked

that each Chinese woman residing in the United States before the 1906

earthquake would have had to have given birth to 800 sons to account

for all the native-born citizens10?and despaired they could ever solve

the problem of paper immigration. Gen. Joseph Swing, the immigration commissioner during the Eisenhower Administration, recalled, “Ever

since the first Chinese came over here . . . the male Chinese went

back… and he’d come back with a man child, and that went on, until

there were ten, eleven children, all male, over the years. Well of course,

it was a big fraud…. Going way back, the whole gang’s illegal. They

just had us spinning our wheels, trying to track these things down.”11

Paper immigration had both cultural and legal consequences. Cultur

ally, it contributed to a racialized view of Chinese as unscrupulous,

devious, and immoral. Mary Coolidge observed in 1909 that “all Chi

nese are treated as suspects, if not criminals.”12 The common practice of

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Ngai 7

illegal immigration underscored the belief that Chinese were an

unassimilable race which had no legitimate claim to American citizen

ship, notwithstanding the Fourteenth Amendment; the California nativ

ist lobby called Chinese born in the United States “pseudo-citizens.”13 The presumption that all Chinese were illegal immigrants also informed

the collective experience of Chinese in America. Arriving Chinese im

migrants, legal and illegal alike, bonded as brethren, as the racially

despised “other,” in the crucible of immigration inspection. As one im

migrant detained on Angel Island wrote, “America has power, but not

justice; in prison, we were victimized as if we were guilty.”14 The government and Chinese viewed paper immigration across a wide

cultural divide. If the authorities believed Chinese were immoral be

cause they knowingly broke the law, Chinese believed paper immigra tion was morally justified because it was one of the few ways to enter

the United States when exclusion made legal immigration impossible.

Indeed, Chinese believed exclusion was immoral, even if it was legal.

Testifying before a Congressional panel in 1952, Edward Hong of the New York Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association explained the

feelings of many Chinese Americans: “[T]he immigration laws

are … discriminatory and so hard on the immigrants that it forces them

to perpetuate fraud against the American government.”15 These discrep ant perceptions and values were part of exclusion’s legacy and would

have to be addressed in any attempted resolution of illegal immigration.

Legally, the authorities found that paper immigration was nearly im

possible to eliminate because it rested on documentation that was cre

ated by the state. Thus, just as oral testimony and interrogation helped create that body of evidence, “confession” became the only method of

proving its fraudulent character. The question was: under what condi

tions could Chinese paper immigrants be induced to confess?

“IDENTITY NOT ESTABLISHED:’ ?Everett F. Drumright, U.S. Consul General, Hong Kong

The impetus for solving the problem of paper immigration grew out

of a crisis in Chinese immigration during the 1950s that reflected both

the legacy of Chinese exclusion and Cold War politics. The roots ofthat

crisis lay in part in the great increase in the number of Chinese seeking

entry into the United States when unsettled conditions created by civil

war and revolution in China prompted many Chinese to emigrate. Con

gress repealed the exclusion laws in 1943, but only a few could hope to

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8 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

enter the United States under the annual quota of 105. That quota ap

plied to all persons of Chinese descent in the world, defined by a one

half blood quantum, regardless of country of birth, residence, or citizen

ship.16 Most Chinese seeking legal entry found avenues for non-quota

immigration as war brides and wives of citizens, as refugees, and as

derivative citizens.17

After the Chinese Revolution in 1949, the American consulates in

China closed, and the several thousand visa and passport applications that had piled up during the war years were forwarded to the consulate

at Hong Kong. In 1950, 117,000 Chinese American derivative citizens

applied for passports at the United States Consulate at Hong Kong in

order to join their families in America, 67 percent more than had applied in 1940. Applicants confronted a four- to twelve-year wait for process

ing.18 In 1950 the Passport Division of the State Department issued special

regulations for Chinese derivative citizens applying for passports. Ap

plicants had to submit affidavits from the American father in triplicate,

photographs from childhood onward, and other documentation difficult

or impossible for many Chinese to acquire. Chinese without birth cer

tificates had to produce “an identifying witness, preferably an American

citizen, well and favorably known to the consular office.”19 In 1951, the

consulate began to use blood tests to determine paternity. It soon added

bone x-rays to ascertain age. The scientific value of these tests was

doubtful even at the time, but the courts upheld their use.20 Yet even

while demanding extraordinary forms of evidence, the consulate did not

always accept them. An immigration attorney recalled, “Even if you

passed the blood test, they might reject it if they felt they weren’t fully satisfied…. Sometimes a marriage certificate was accepted by the pass

port office as documentation to show a child’s legitimacy, but the same

marriage certificate was rejected by the United States consular office in

Hong Kong as documentation for the wife’s visa.”21

Investigators subjected applicants to severe interrogation, with ques tions even more numerous and detailed than in the past. They required

applicants to answer eighty-one questions in writing (Question 22: “List

all the people who lived within five houses on all sides of your last

place of residence in China before you came to the U.S. and state their

relationship to you if any”) and then sit through one or more lengthy oral interviews. Discrepancies between declared statements and other

testimony sometimes prompted investigators to visit the applicant’s home,

searching for incriminating evidence, such as family letters, a practice

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Ngai 9

that the consulate knew infringed upon the subject’s rights.22 The San

Francisco Chinese World editorialized that the hurdles in the passport application process at Hong Kong were “so harsh and oppressive that

even legitimate applicants cannot surmount them.”23

Many Chinese American derivative citizens whom the consulate de

nied passports appealed to the federal courts for relief, as their forbears

had done at the turn of the century. Between 1952 and 1955, nearly

2,000 Chinese American derivative citizens filed civil suits in United States District Courts in California, asking for declaratory judgment on their claims to citizenship. The civil suits placed the State Department in

a position of having to prove the consulate’s judgment of fraud.24 But in

1955, the consulate still had over 1,000 passport cases pending in which

fraud was suspected.25 Representatives of the State Department’s Bu

reau of Security and Consular Affairs conducting a site visit to the post in the spring of 1955 found the consular staff suffering from an “acute

feeling of frustration,” owing to the huge volume of cases and the “devi

ousness of all but a very few of the applicants they face.” Morale at the

post was so low that the visiting officials declared that Hong Kong was

“without exaggeration … the worst of any Foreign Service post” they

had ever seen.26

Owing to the backlog of applications and the pending civil suits, a

sense of crisis loomed at the State Department. Determined to investi

gate “every single case” in which there was suspicion of fraud so that

“we will not again be inundated with a flood of illegal Chinese,” the

department decided to increase the investigative staff in Hong Kong from 22 to 120; Congress granted the department an additional $500,000 to pay for it.27

The central figure in the American campaign against immigration fraud in Hong Kong was the Consul General, Everett F. Drumright. A

former “China hand,” Drumright was one of the few foreign service

officers who did not come under attack during the early 1950s by Sen.

Joseph McCarthy and Vice-President Richard Nixon for “losing China.”

The son of a Midwestern farmer who struck oil in Oklahoma in 1902, he

was the most politically conservative member of the Foreign Service in

pre-war China, a distinction which led his colleagues to sometimes call

him “Right Drum” and went a long way to placing him above suspicion

by the McCarthyites.28

Drumright led the American consulate at Hong Kong at the height of

the Cold War. By the mid-1950s the United States, having stalemated in

Korea and paying for 75 percent of France’s military operation in Viet

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10 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

nam, considered China its number one enemy. The Eisenhower Admin

istration believed that the real threat in Vietnam, as in Korea, was China.

During late 1954 and 1955, the United States came dangerously close to

war with China over Jinmen and Mazu, tiny islands a few miles off the

Chinese coast that had been seized by Chiang Kai-shek’s forces when

the deposed Nationalist government retreated to Taiwan in 1949.29

Relations between the United States and China during the mid-1950s

thus seemed to rest on a hair trigger, and the implications were not lost

on Chinese Americans and their relatives seeking entry to the United

States. Framed by the Chinese Revolution, the issue of citizenship was

not confined to Chinese Americans but was international, facing other

overseas Chinese as well, especially in Southeast Asia, where 90 per cent of all overseas Chinese resided. Eisenhower believed the twenty two million overseas Chinese in Asia formed a fifth column for China.

The Kuomintang also warned that Communist China would claim the

citizenship of the overseas Chinese and, presumably, their loyalty. The

warning was ironic, for the Kuomintang had been built with overseas

Chinese support and funding, and had pursued an aggressive overseas

Chinese policy based on the principle of jus sanguinis?that persons of

Chinese blood, regardless of their country of birth, are citizens of China.30

When the Chinese Communist party assumed power in 1949 it inherited an overseas Chinese “problem” that had evolved historically throughout Southeast Asia. Long-standing social and economic resentment toward

the Chinese combined with fear of subversion.31

Although the overseas Chinese community in the United States was

much smaller and more economically marginal than those in Southeast

Asia, the same anti-Communist politics and racist suspicion informed

Drumright’s approach to the immigration crisis. In December 1955,

Drumright submitted an 89-page white paper to the State Department that directly linked the problem of fraud to communist infiltration. The

report alleged that Communist China was exploiting a widespread “crimi

nal conspiracy” which included a fantastic multi-million dollar black

market operating in Hong Kong, San Francisco, and New York (com

plete with blood-type-matching services designed to thwart the new


Drumright alleged there were 124 “citizenship brokerage houses”

openly operating in Hong Kong, though he gave no evidence for the

charge. He warned that China was sneaking espionage agents into the

United States by purchasing false papers and that the Communists planned to “organize the newcomers who are [in the United States] illegally and

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Ngai 11

therefore are subject to blackmail.” The passport fraud rings, Drumright

warned, had to be “destroyed] once and for all,… before Communist

China is able to bend that system [of illegal immigration] to the service

of her purposes alone.”32

Drumright gave no evidence that China was sending spies into the

United States, but the consulate saw potential spies everywhere. It be

lieved a so-called “smile campaign” conducted by the Communists to

ward overseas Chinese and their families in southern China during the

mid-1950s (reclassifying families from “landlord” to “peasant” status,

returning their houses, increasing rations, relaxing remittance proce

dures) was part of a Communist strategy to gain influence in the United

States. By giving benefits to Chinese Americans’ relatives in China, the

consulate reasoned, the Communists would make Chinese Americans

dependent upon them and therefore vulnerable to blackmail. It specu lated that the Communists would gain further influence in the United

States as the sons and paper sons of Chinese Americans, having been

schooled in the Communist education system and served in the People’s Liberation Army, emigrated to America.33

The consulate worried further about a Communist-backed “marriage racket.” It alleged that the Communists sent “Chinese girls” into Hong

Kong, where they married Chinese Americans and then sought entry into the United States with no other evidence of identity than their Hong

Kong marriage certificate. The consulate despaired it had “no way to

even begin a security investigation” of such persons.34 In fact, the Com

munists’ overseas Chinese policy was much more complex than the fifth

column theory suggested. Notwithstanding the dubious notion that the

politics and behavior of overseas Chinese could be manipulated by ei

ther the Communists or the Nationalists, China had, by 1954, begun

moving away from the historical policy of jus sanguinis. Its interests in

the overseas Chinese were aimed at keeping a smooth flow of remit

tance and supporting its foreign policy goals of peaceful coexistence, not exporting revolution.35

The Drumright report also betrayed racial hostility and suspicion to

ward the Chinese reminiscent of exclusion-era rhetoric. Drumright of

fered a crude analysis of Chinese culture, citing adoptions, plural mar

riages, multiple naming, and preference for male children as “common

cultural occurrences (that) become a perfect alibi” for illegal activity.

Moreover, he alleged that Chinese were culturally inclined to fraud and

perjury since they “lack a concept equivalent to the Western concept of

an oath.” In the final analysis, Drumright simply did not want to see so

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12 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

many Chinese immigrating into the United States. He recalled the late

nineteenth-century vision of the Chinese yellow peril and raised the

specter of race riots and exclusion. Noting that 99 percent of Chinese

immigration from Hong Kong was on a non-quota basis, Drumright

suggested the non-quota immigrants were somehow cheating the quota

system that had, after all, been designed to limit Chinese immigration. He compared the 1940s, when the Chinese population of the United

States increased by over 50 percent, to the 1870s, “when an increase of

67 percent so alarmed the West that Exclusion was enacted within a few


However, Drumright opposed the State Department’s decision to in

crease the investigative staff at Hong Kong and argued with his col

leagues in Washington about it for over a year. Drumright believed it

would be an exorbitant expense to investigate every case. He argued that direct investigation was not necessary except in unusual cases and

advocated instead a much easier method: if an applicant failed to meet

the consulate’s standards of evidence, passports and visas could be de

nied on the simple grounds of “identity not established.”37

Since the consulate had erected nearly insurmountable barriers to

proving identity and suspected every applicant of fraud, Drumright’s method would have denied passports and visas to virtually all appli cants. State Department officials regarded Drumright’s views and prac tices with great unease. A formal review of Drumright’s report and

recommendations concluded that denying passports and visas on the

basis of mere suspicion, without investigation, was arbitrary and prob

ably violated due process. Some officials also believed the standards of

evidence imposed at Hong Kong were unreasonable.38

But Drumright continued to frustrate and embarrass the department,

especially in visa cases, where he had final authority. He suspended hundreds of cases indefinitely on the vague grounds of “identity not

established,” including cases where evidence had been submitted and

the petition already approved by the INS. He refused to respond to

inquiries from members of Congress about specific cases.39 The Consul

General believed the State Department should not bend to “bureaucratic

pressure” from congressmen who were manipulated by Chinese Ameri

can “pushers.” In fact, the latter were wealthy Chinese American sup

porters of the Republican party and the Kuomintang whom both Con

gress and the State Department were reluctant to offend.40

Drumright’s position was actually the logical extension of the

government’s historical policies for authenticating the identity of Chi

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Ngai 13

nese immigrants. Drumright understood that Chinese determined to en

ter the United States could thwart nearly any government requirement.

Caught in the historical spiral, Drumright advocated policies that were

increasingly extreme. For example, when blood tests were first imposed in the early 1950s, a negative result was considered proof that the claimed

relationship was false. In 1956, Drumright also wanted to reject appli cants who tested positive because he believed impostors had learned to

match their blood types before making their claims?begging the ques tion of what purpose a blood test served if any result was grounds for

denial. He wanted to fingerprint applicants, subject suspected impostors to polygraph tests, and install hidden microphones in interrogation rooms

to monitor the consulate’s Chinese interpreters, whom he did not trust.41

He even suspected that Chinese made fake confessions after investiga tors produced evidence of fraud. “If an immigration family claims six

sons and one is shown to be a blood fraud,” he said, “the family will…

decide to ‘confess everything.’ The new family history will, however, continue to show all of the other five sons.” While continuing to raise

the standards of evidence, Drumright offered what he believed was the

only way out of the spiral: just say no.42

Consistent with the premises of Chinese exclusion, Drumright be

lieved Chinese immigration could not be addressed within existing law

but was a special problem requiring special solutions, that is, arbitrary

power to deny Chinese entry to America.43 The State Department, whose

standards of evidence for Chinese derivative citizens were already above

and beyond those required of other derivative citizens,44 argued that

Chinese immigration should be regulated by the same policies and pro cedures that it applied globally. Within that framework, it believed fraud could be uncovered only by directly investigating each case that came

under suspicion. Drumright appears to have dodged the policies of the

Passport and Visa offices for as long as he did because he had personal and political support in the Department’s Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs.

He was also stubborn and ill tempered.45 The conflicts between Drumright and sections of the State Depart

ment reflected tensions in Washington over both immigration and for

eign policy. Drumright evinced an old-line exclusionist mentalit? com

bined with the shrill anti-Communism of the post-war China Lobby, and

he guarded the gate in Hong Kong with single-minded anti-Communist

and anti-China determination. The State Department shared many of the

same assumptions but sought a more subtle, modern policy that was not

explicitly racist.

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14 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

Moreover, the department had to balance its commitment to halting

illegal entry with other concerns. It had to navigate the waters of foreign

policy with the Nationalists in Taipei and the British colonial authorities in Hong Kong. The department worried that criticism of its policy and

actions from those quarters would embarrass the United States. It was

sensitive to charges of racial discrimination, knowing that such charges

damaged the international image of the United States, and may have felt

particularly vulnerable to criticism of the Chinese quota, which was

based on race, not national origin.46 Although nativists in Congress, led

by Francis E. Walter, the co-sponsor of the 1952 Immigration and Na

tionality Act, blocked immigration reform throughout the 1950s, the

Eisenhower Administration advocated reforming the quota system and

viewed such reform as part of the United States’ ability to present itself

as the leader of the free world.47

Despite their differences, the Consul General and State Department officials in Washington generally agreed that decisive action was needed

to keep Chinese impostors from entering the United States. By Septem ber 1956, the department had assigned twenty-three additional investi

gative teams to Hong Kong. And, if Drumright lost the immediate battle

over passport and visa policy, he did not suffer politically from it. In

1957 he was named United States Ambassador to Nationalist China, in

which post he served as a staunch supporter of the Chiang regime.48


?Chinese Six Companies

The Department of Justice carried out the domestic component of the

government’s coordinated effort against illegal Chinese immigration. In

February 1956, the United States Attorneys in San Francisco and New

York impaneled grand juries to investigate Chinese fraudulent entry.

Whereas the enforcement of immigration policy in matters of admission

and deportation was an administrative procedure, the Justice Department’s action exposed Chinese paper sons to felony charges of fraud, perjury, and conspiracy.

The grand jury in San Francisco subpoenaed the officers of Chinese

family and district associations, as well as the “lists, rolls, or other

records of membership of the association during the entire period of the

association’s existence, all records of dues, assessments, contributions,

and other income of the association, and all photographs of the member

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Ngai 15

ship or any portion thereof.”49 The Justice Department believed that

Chinese joined their true family association, not the association of their

paper name. It therefore believed that the family associations’ files con

tained “independent, accurate records of Chinese family relationships” that could be used to challenge the legitimacy of citizenship claims in

the cases pending in District Court.50 The United States Attorney as

sembled a task force that included five investigators from the State

Department’s Office of Security, eight investigators from the INS, and

three United States Marshals. Teams from the United States Attorney’s office and the district office of the INS fanned out throughout Chinatown on the morning of 29 February 1956 and served the subpoenas on thirty four family and district associations. The order gave twenty-four hours

to comply.51 On March 1 the grand jury began proceedings at the Post Office

Building in San Francisco. Some fifty Chinatown residents and family association leaders appeared, many armed with “pasteboard boxes full

of papers and photographs.” Among the family association officers present were Jack Chow, an assistant district attorney under Edmund Brown, and Earl Louie, a member of the Central Committee of the California

Republican party.52 But they did not testify. In a dramatic move, the San

Francisco Chinese Six Companies, the original and pre-eminent Chinese

benevolent association in America, challenged the subpoena. Chow,

Louie, and the officers of the other family associations refused to turn

over their records, charging the subpoena was so vague as to constitute

unlawful search.53

The grand jury investigation frightened and outraged the community. Lim P. Lee, the head of the Cathay Post of the American Legion who

later became the Postmaster General of San Francisco, recalled, “Chinatown was hit like an A-bomb fell. Streets were deserted. Restau

rants dropped income. Shoppers avoided Chinatown, and for three weeks

it was a ghost town.”54 Rumors circulated that Chinese would be rounded

up en masse and deported or, alternately, put into “concentration


The state’s attack on the Six Companies was ironic, since the local

Kuomintang, which overlapped with the Six Companies leadership, had

colluded with the FBI and INS to harass and deport Chinatown leftists

during the early 1950s. Chinatown politics had enjoyed a period of

popular front unity during the 1930s and 1940s, but that situation changed after the Chinese Revolution and the advent of the Cold War. By 1956,

organizations of the Chinese American left, such as the Chinese Hand

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16 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

Laundry Alliance and China Daily News in New York and the Chinese Workers Mutual Aid Association and the Chinese American Democratic

Youth League in San Francisco, were crippled by state repression and

local Kuomintang opposition.56 When immigration politics reached into

the community at large, Chinatown politics were severely fractured and

the leadership of the community’s resistance fell largely to the Chinese

Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA), known in San Francisco

as the Chinese Six Companies. The Six Companies’ role in the immigration crisis recalled its histori

cal position in the Chinese community dating back to the late nineteenth

century. An associative council comprising all the family and district

associations and led by the Chinese merchant elite, the Six Companies was an instrument of social and labor control within the community as

well as its representative to mainstream society and voice of protest to

the government. During the exclusion era, when Chinese were ineligible for citizenship and excluded from the polity, the Six Companies carved

out a narrow space within which it fought for the interests of Chinese in

America. It used the federal courts adroitly to challenge Chinese immi

gration policy, taking many cases as far as the United States Supreme Court. Although the Chinese lost more cases than not, they achieved

some significant victories, such as the ruling in Wong Kim Ark (1898), which upheld birth-right citizenship under the Fourteenth Amendment

for Chinese born in America.57

In response to the immigration crisis in the 1950s, Chinese again relied on legal means to protect them. But after World War II, Chinese

Americans began to develop some political influence, owing to the re

peal of the exclusion laws, a loosening of immigration restrictions, and

the maturation of a generation of American-born Chinese, especially in

California.58 Candidates running for political office in San Francisco

courted the Chinatown vote, and Chinese who were aligned with the

Kuomintang supported the Republican party in the belief that the latter

were the strongest allies of the Nationalist government. These develop ments enlarged the space within which Chinese could organize their


When the grand jury subpoenas were served on the family associa

tions, the Six Companies mustered a legal challenge literally overnight. It then moved to mobilize public support. On March 16 the Six Compa

nies held a press conference where it said it would cooperate with the

authorities in any investigation of Chinese who were “legitimate objects of inquiry,” but condemned the blanket subpoena in harsh language that

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Ngai 17

reflected its essentially nationalist world view, claiming the subpoena was being used for the “obvious purpose of oppressing and intimidating the entire Chinese American community in San Francisco and, whether

intentional or otherwise, they are having the effect of stigmatizing the

social and family status of a respected community with criminal colora


Several community organizations participated in the press confer

ence, including the conservative Chinese Chamber of Commerce and

Chinese American War Veterans Association, the more moderate Cathay

Post, and the liberal Chinese American Citizens Alliance. The leader

ship of this united front was clearly in the hands of the Six Companies, which had the added moral authority derived from being the victim of an injustice. At the same time, the left was absent from the meeting as

well as from any collective protection organized by the Six Compa nies.60

Chinese in New York watched with alarm as the situation unfolded in

San Francisco. In response to reports that the INS had raided the Chi

nese New Year celebrations of numerous family associations in San

Francisco, the New York CCBA ordered all New Year banquets in New

York canceled. The CCBA retained a lawyer and, in an open letter

printed in the Chinatown press, advised it would protect and fight on

behalf of those “involved in misfortune without cause.”61 CCBA leaders

also appealed to the Nationalist Chinese government to protest the grand

jury actions.62

The grand jury proceedings met a storm of protest in the Chinese

press. One paper deplored the “blunderbluss” tactics of the government that “failed to distinguish between racketeers and the long-established,

reputable family associations.”63 The press obtained a copy of the

Drumright report from the United States Attorney’s office, adding fuel

to the fire in the Chinese press in both the United States and Hong Kong. The New York World Journal published a pamphlet with a lengthy critique.64 Dai Ming Lee, editor of the San Francisco English-language Chinese World, polemicized against the Drumright report every day for

two weeks, criticizing Drumright for ignoring Chinese immigrants’ con

tributions to building the American West and “cast(ing) the antecedents

of the Chinese in America in the role of criminals.”65 The Hong Kong

Tiger Standard called the Drumright report “too fantastic for words”

and said it was designed to “stir up the American public, which is given to hysteria on the slightest provocation.” The South China Morning Post

articulated the view of many Chinese that they were not really culpable

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18 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

for criminal acts because illegal immigration was “basically due to the

Asiatic exclusion laws.”66

On March 20 Judge Oliver Carter granted the motion of the family associations to quash the subpoenas, agreeing that the blanket nature of

the subpoena violated their Fourth Amendment rights. Carter ruled that

the subpoenas were “oppressive,” “unreasonable,” and “had the effect of

a ‘dragnet.’” The United States Attorney’s office, while still alleging

“suspicion of fraud involving every family association,” said it would

conduct a “more limited probe.”67 In fact, investigations in both the United States and Hong Kong con

tinued. The State Department’s Office of Security, the INS, and the FBI

assigned additional investigators to assist the United States Attorneys.68

Having lost in the matter of the mass subpoena, the United States Attor

ney subpoenaed specific family association records in connection with

specific individuals under investigation. In June the welfare committee

of the Chinese Six Companies announced it had agreed to cooperate with the INS in the questioning of officials of certain associations.69 But

the Chinese continued to resist in a number of ways. The CCBA in

Boston, New York, and Washington instructed local family associations

to relocate the names of paper sons from the records of their true family associations to the association to which the paper name belonged.70

Individual Chinese who were called before the grand jury responded in ways that were not entirely cooperative. A field report submitted to

the State Department Office of Security, summarizing thirty cases heard

by the San Francisco grand jury during the month of April 1956, shows that in four cases the Chinese refused to cooperate outright, two by

invoking the Fifth Amendment and two by failing to appear. Eighteen cases, more than half, were dismissed. That is, Chinese plaintiffs dropped their suits and withdrew their applications for passports pending in Hong

Kong; in exchange, the United States Attorney dropped criminal charges. In five cases Chinese maintained they were true sons or daughters who

had used paper names. In only three cases did Chinese individuals admit

to creating or using false immigration “slots.” The Justice Department was sufficiently frustrated that it considered filing charges against the

CCBA for obstruction of justice for advising Chinese to not cooperate with the investigations.71

In Hong Kong, too, Chinese resisted by refusing to cooperate with

investigators. Many witnesses “disappear(ed) rather than be interviewed,”

and many subjects “refused to cooperate in any way.” If the task was

more difficult, the consulate nonetheless completed its goal of investi

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Ngai 19

gating fifty cases by the end of July. The consulate reported indications of fraud in all fifty cases, but it obtained direct confessions only in

twenty-six cases, of which half were confessions by true sons or daugh ters using paper names. Only one case revealed an exchange of money for papers. In fourteen cases the subjects either disappeared or refused

to incriminate themselves.72

The revelation of many Chinese who were true family members using

paper names suggests that paper immigration had become a burden for

many Chinese Americans. Once the paper trail started in the early twen

tieth century, Chinese Americans using paper names had no choice but

to perpetuate the false lineage in order to bring their true family mem

bers into the United States. The high percentage of confessions by true

family members using paper names also suggests that they did not be

lieve they had really committed a crime, even if they knew they had

technically broken the law. Those Chinese confessed believing, perhaps, that the authorities would recognize their moral innocence and not pros ecute them. At the same time, Chinese who refused to testify understood

that without a confession the prosecutors would not have enough evi

dence to obtain a conviction. Ironically, the United States Attorney pur sued criminal charges against Chinese who confessed to being true sons

using paper names while it declined to prosecute cases stipulated for

dismissal, even though the latter were more likely to involve the use of

paper names by people of no relation or the sale of false immigration slots for profit.73

As a result of the coordinated investigations the District Court dis

missed some 200 civil suits, and the grand juries in New York and San Francisco handed up thirty-eight indictments.74 The authorities exposed

only one “racket,” operated by a prominent New York Chinatown busi

nessman who owned two restaurants and a travel agency. Prosecutors

said the latter was a “front” for an illegal immigration operation with

connections to doctors who certified blood types and lawyers who handled

the applications. They claimed that he filed sixty-five actions for more

than one hundred applicants between 1949 and 1952, although they tried

and convicted him in connection with only five cases. The trial also

revealed that he made a profit of $23,000 in two years from selling false

papers, a substantial sum, but far less than the $3 million a year the

government originally alleged.75

Indeed, the actual cases involving fraud that the government brought

hardly matched up to the sensational charges made by Drumright and

the Justice Department. While paper citizenship was widespread, the

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20 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

result of sixty years of exclusion, contemporaries believed that the prac tice of buying false papers had ceased by the early 1950s because it had become widely known that the American consulate at Hong Kong was

blocking most citizen claimant applications. Observers also wondered

why Communist China would try to sneak spies into the United States

by what had become the most ineffective means of illegal entry, when

agents could, for example, simply pose as seamen and jump ship.76 The

problem was not communist infiltration or multi-million dollar rackets, but the existence of tens of thousands of ordinary Chinese Americans

who were related in some way to a paper citizen.


?required of Chinese confessing fraudulent claim to citizenship

In March 1957 the New York and San Francisco CCBA called a nationwide Chinese American conference on immigration reform in

Washington, D.C. It was an unprecedented gathering, drawing 124 del

egates from thirty-four cities from all regions of the country, including such unlikely places as Savannah, Minneapolis, Cleveland, and Hous

ton. Howard Pyle, a White House assistant to President Eisenhower, addressed the conference. Delegates passed fourteen resolutions, mostly concerned with increasing Chinese immigration and reforming the dis

criminatory aspects of American immigration policy. A resolution to

admit Chinese refugees to work as agricultural laborers, similar to Mexi

can braceros, recalled the CCBA’s historical role as a labor contractor.77

The conference reflected some subtle shifts in the CCBA’s percep tions of its role in community politics and evinced a growing sophistica tion in political lobbying. Significantly, the conference promoted an

image of the Chinese as solid American citizens, not unassimilable for

eigners. The delegates issued a statement declaring, “To be good citi

zens has always been our objective…. We must do our utmost to fulfill

our responsibilities and obligations by renewing our pledge as loyal American citizens,” and pointed out that fostering the welfare of Chi

nese in the United States “thereby contributed] to towards the general welfare of America.”78 Moreover, the issue of China was absent from

the conference call and agenda.79

Following the conference, the CCBA continued to lobby for reform.

CCBA leaders held private discussions with the INS to promote legisla tive reforms, discourage immigration raids into the community, and find

ways to adjust the status of the paper immigrants. Toward achieving the

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Ngai 21

latter goal, CCBA leaders agreed to promote the Service’s Chinese Con

fession Program.80 The San Francisco district office of the INS started the Chinese Con

fession Program in 1956. The program was a procedure for an adminis

trative adjustment of status. If Chinese who had entered the country by fraudulent means made voluntary disclosure of their false status, the

Service said it would assist confessors, “if at all possible under the law,” to adjust their status. Under existing law, persons who were in the

country illegally were eligible for a suspension of deportation and per manent resident status if they had resided in the United States continu

ally for seven years. Aliens who served in the armed forces for ninety

days were eligible for naturalized citizenship.81

According to an internal INS report, the Service organized the Con

fession Program as a result of its experience in a case involving the Lew

family of San Francisco. Lew Bok Yin had established himself as a

native-born citizen in 1902 by means of a habeas corpus proceeding. In

1955, the American consulate at Hong Kong received information sug

gesting that Lew was not in fact a citizen and that therefore thirty-four

people who claimed to be his descendants, including seventeen who had

already immigrated to the United States, were also not citizens. How

ever, the Service only had sufficient evidence to deport three of them.

Upon learning that ten of Lew’s alleged descendants were either veter

ans or active members of the armed forces, the INS interviewed the

veterans and explained that if they confessed they would be eligible for naturalized citizenship under their real names. After extensive family

consultations, the entire family confessed. The Service had thus discov

ered a method of exposing an entire family tree.82

In June 1956, Bruce Barber, the San Francisco District Director of the

INS, spoke before a meeting of the Cathay Post of the American Legion in San Francisco’s Chinatown, recruiting veterans to confess in exchange for naturalized citizenship. By November the District had exposed 113

Chinese Americans holding false claims of citizenship and voided claims

to citizenship of 73 others still in Hong Kong and China.83 In February

1957, the INS Central Office approved expansion of the program to the

rest of the country. Instructions emphasized that no promises of immu

nity from prosecution should be made but that “every medium [be] used

to advise Chinese in the United States regarding the possibilities of

adjustment under the law.”84 Moreover, the INS conducted the Confes

sion Program with a great deal of discretionary authority. No statute

governed the program, nor was there provision for general amnesty.

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22 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

Immigration Commissioner Joseph Swing and Rep. Francis E. Walter

decided that the program did not need or warrant legislation.85 Accord

ing to published statistics on the Confession Program in the INS’s An

nual Reports from 1957 to 1965, at least 11,336 Chinese Americans

confessed to having entered the United States under false claim of citi

zenship. Another 19,124 people were implicated as holding false citi

zenship by the confessions of others. Finally, some 5,800 “slots”?

names of non-existent persons not yet used for illegal entry?were closed

(see Table l).86 TABLE 1

Chinese Confession Program 1956-1965

Year(s) Confessed3 Implicated5 Slots closed0

1957, 1958, 1959 1,700 n/a n/a 1960 (northeast only) 151 158 327

1961 1,248 2,235 1,187 1962 1,419 3,003 1,391

1963 2,241 4,233 n/a 1964 2,579 5,911 1,192 1965 1,998 3,564 1,192

Total 11,336 19,124 5,800

Source: INS Annual Report, 1957-1965 Notes: a number of persons who made direct confession to illegal status;

b number of persons named by confessors as illegal, but no direct confession;c number of future illegal entries eliminated

The Confession Program aimed to correct limitations in the Depart ments of State and Justice’s investigations in Hong Kong and the United

States. As reports of those investigations indicate, painstaking investiga tive work led to direct confessions in only about 50 percent of the cases.

It was just as likely as not that the authorities would produce only inconclusive evidence of fraud. Even when Chinese were induced to

confess, the authorities solved only individual cases, which did little to

eliminate the system of paper immigration. The INS thus hoped that the Confession Program would eliminate

that system. It believed it could foreclose future illegal immigration by

securing the confessions of entire families. As the Lew family case

demonstrates, exposure of an entire family tree included the disclosure,

and therefore the elimination, of false “slots” that were still unused. The

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Ngai 23

INS held out the possibility (never the promise) of relief only to confes sors who named all names. Ralph Stanley, an INS investigator in San

Francisco, explained, “If this program is to be of value to this Service, it

is imperative that full information concerning all family members be

obtained and that the Chinese not be permitted to testify solely concern

ing his own individual identity and nationality.”87 INS investigators worked patiently and persistently to get the confes

sions of whole families. Stanley noted that it could take as long as a year to obtain an entire family’s cooperation and explained the need to “save

face” for true family members who were caught in the web of illegality of their kin. An immigration attorney who handled confession cases in

New York’s Chinatown similarly recalled that Service investigators of

ten seemed like “social workers” who assisted families with their con


Yet, the process of individual and family confession was not always smooth. Many families divided over whether or not to confess, some

times quite bitterly.89 And, although Service publications described the

Confession Program as a benefit for which Chinese could voluntarily

apply without fear of prosecution, the program was not entirely volun

tary or free from the taint of criminality. It began in 1956 when the

grand jury and Hong Kong investigations were still taking place, blur

ring the line between voluntary confession and criminal proceedings.

Moreover, the INS aggressively sought to induce confessions from

people whose names surfaced in investigative leads from anonymous

telephone calls, letters, and coaching material the Service seized.90 In

many cases, INS investigators called Chinese whom they suspected of

fraud for “informal interviews,” where they confronted them with some

evidence that suggested fraud or news that a paper brother living in

another city had confessed. Investigator Stanley believed Chinese would

cooperate because they understood that the failure to do so might “ulti

mately involve themselves and members of their immediate families in

criminal action.”91 Thus Chinese called in for questioning often upheld their original story but then returned a few weeks later with an attorney and confessed. Given the atmosphere of anti-communism, grand jury

investigations, and rumors of mass deportations, it is not surprising that

Chinese under investigation found reason to confess.

Confession entailed a formal interview with INS officials. Confessors

answered questions according to a standardized form, confessing their

fraudulent claim to citizenship and listing the names of their true family and paper family members, including their whereabouts. They were

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24 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

asked if they had ever been convicted of a crime, voted in an election, served in the armed forces, belonged to the Communist party, or be

lieved in “communistic aims.” Moreover, confessors had to turn over all

documents of citizenship and write in their own hand, “I hereby surren

der my passport” (or Certificate of Identity). At the conclusion of the

hearing, INS officers required confessors to state that they were “ame

nable for deportation” and then instructed them to apply for a suspen sion of deportation, permanent resident status, or naturalized citizenship,

depending on their eligibility. A memorandum was then referred to the

INS board of special inquiry where a hearing officer ruled on the confessor’s status.

The vast majority of confessors successfully received legal status, but

some were found ineligible for relief. Of those, a relatively small num

ber were deported; others remained in the United States because the

United States Attorney declined to prosecute and the INS shelved their

cases?a mixed blessing since they were left with no status at all.92

Sometimes an unsympathetic hearing officer simply denied relief to

confessors even if they were eligible for adjusted status. In one case, a

seaman who had jumped ship was advised by his attorney to confess; he

was denied a suspension of deportation because the hearing officer did

not believe it would be “unconscionable” to deport him.93 The seeming arbitrariness of the Service’s rulings and the lack of statutory or even

published guidelines led immigration attorneys to complain that they could not properly advise prospective confessors. Not surprisingly, many Chinese immigrants mistrusted the program, especially in the beginning, and the INS considered the cooperation of the CCBA essential to giving

credibility to the program.94 The INS also used its discretionary authority to deny consistently the

benefits of the Confession Program to Chinese American leftists. The

INS kept copies of the subscription list of the left-wing China Daily News and membership lists of groups like the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance and the Chinese Workers Mutual Aid Association dating back to the 1930s and continued using those lists to determine eligibility for

relief. Typically, in denying an application, the INS would refer to “con

fidential information the disclosure of which would be prejudicial to

public interest,” which was understood to mean “communist.”95

During the early 1960s, left-wing activists whom immigration and

FBI agents had harassed over the years became subject to deportation and criminal proceedings once their false status was revealed by the

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Ngai 25

confessions of others. In New York, Louie Pon of the Hand Laundry Alliance and Yee Sun Jok, an employee of the China Daily News, were

deported in 1964 and 1966, respectively, after each was exposed as a

paper son.96

In California the authorities vigorously prosecuted paper sons of the

left. In San Francisco the owners of the World Theater, Karl Fung and

Lawrence Lowe, were charged with fraudulent citizenship.97 In 1961 the

INS began deportation proceedings against Happy Lim (Lim Gim Foo), the secretary of the Chinese Workers Mutual Aid Association, for illegal

entry as a paper son in 1922. The authorities believed Lim was a com

munist and pursued his case aggressively, although it never produced sufficient evidence to deport him.98

Several members of the Chinese American Democratic Youth League,

familiarly known as Min Qing (Democratic Youth), were arrested on

criminal charges of fraud related to their alleged illegal entry into the United States. In August 1962 a federal grand jury in Tacoma, Washing

ton, indicted Maurice Chuck for procuring a certificate of citizenship in

1954 as a result of “false and fraudulent statements.” Chuck had come

to the United States in 1948 at the age of fifteen to join his father, who was a paper son. He soon joined the Min Qing and wrote articles for the

China Daily News.”

Chuck’s father, Hwong Jack Hong, had participated in the Confession

Program and was subpoenaed to testify against his own son. During the

trial, father and son stayed in the same hotel room. Their relationship had never been easy; Maurice Chuck had grown up in China without

knowing his father, and when he came to the United States, they clashed

over Maurice’s radicalism. In Tacoma, the elder Chuck cried every

night over the government’s forcing him to testify against his son. The

court found Chuck guilty and stripped him of his citizenship. He served three months of a five-year prison term.100

In 1961, Kai G. Dear, also of the Min Qing, was tried on criminal

charges of conspiracy for entering the United States as a paper son in

1933 at the age of ten, falsely representing himself as a citizen by voting in elections, and serving as a witness at his wife’s naturalization hearing in 1956. The case against Dear was based on the confession of his aunt.

Dear’s defense attempted to show that the INS had a secret list of

Chinese American organizations, including the Min Qing, the members

of which were to be denied the benefits of the confession program. But

the court quashed the subpoena issued by Dear’s lawyers for the INS.

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26 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

Dear, too, was convicted and stripped of his citizenship.101 The confession trials served not only to punish Chinese American

leftists but as a public counterpart to the loyalty statement each confes

sor was required to make. The price of disloyalty was high: the accused

faced charges that were often abusive and frivolous, involving crimes

allegedly committed when they were children, as well as possibility of

deportation or imprisonment. Their families suffered humiliation and

anguish as their relatives were subpoenaed to testify against them, even

though the INS had assured the community that confessors and their

families would not be prosecuted.


?Dai-Ming Lee, editor, San Francisco Chinese World

The cultural arrogance of the authorities, combined with the politics of

the times, dictated that paper immigration be cast as a mass criminal

conspiracy. But it would be more accurate to view paper citizenship as

part of a culture constructed by a minority population under conditions

of exclusion and social segregation. That culture was drawn from China

and built on premises of extended family loyalty and group survival

made necessary by life in America. Exclusion created the conditions for

paper immigration as well as an insulated environment that both pro tected illegal immigrants and kept the community isolated from main

stream society. The Confession Program enabled Chinese immigrants to take a step

out of the shadow of exclusion. By legalizing the Chinese paper sons,

the program eliminated one source of the community’s social isolation

and enabled their sons and daughters, the next generation of Chinese

Americans, to better make their claim to the rights and privileges of

citizenship during the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, by clearing up fam

ily relationships, the Confession Program allowed Chinese Americans to

immigrate their true relatives into the United States. That step had im

portant, if unintended, consequences for Chinese immigration. It laid the

basis for many Chinese Americans to take advantage of the preference

categories for family reunification enacted in the immigration reforms

of 1965, and thus contributed to the significant increase in the level of

Chinese immigration experienced since that time.

The Confession Program served as a means of renegotiating the terms

of Chinese Americans’ membership in the nation. Although Chinese

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Ngai 27

Americans and the INS approached that negotiation from grossly un

equal positions of power, Chinese Americans resisted the state’s efforts

to criminalize the entire community. The Six Companies and CCBAs

successfully mobilized both legal and mass opposition to the grand jury’s mass subpoenas, and offered legal counsel and community support which

made individual acts of resistance possible. They also utilized their con

nections within the Republican party and the Kuomintang to lobby the

State Department. The CCBA, of course, also benefited from the

government’s use of the Confession Program to weaken further the

Chinese American left and strengthen its own political position in the

community in the process. The resistance offered by Chinese was not without effect. Whereas

the Hong Kong investigations and grand jury proceedings granted no

reward for admitting fraud, the Confession Program afforded benefits to

both Chinese Americans and the state. The bargain at the core of confes

sion?legalized status for those already settled in America in exchange for closing off future paper immigration? settled, for the most part, the

legacy of illegal immigration from the exclusion era.

That bargain was not without its price. Left-wing activists were the

most visible sacrifice, and thousands of families privately endured an

uncertain and anxious process. And, if confession follows sin, it also

implies redemption, but the community could not entirely redeem its

virtue. Cold War politics and the sensationalized investigations against fraud reproduced racialized perceptions that Chinese immigrants were

unalterably foreign, illegal, and dangerous. Thus while confession legal ized Chinese immigrants, it did not necessarily bring them social legiti

macy. Dai-Ming Lee called for the government to recognize the “human

aspect” of illegal immigration and suggested that public officials could

“foster respect for the law by careful observance of the spirit as well as

the letter of the law.” The “condemnation of an entire racial group,” he

said, was “repugnant to the spirit of American justice.”102 An official amnesty program might have resolved the problem be

cause amnesty is based on forgiveness, removes the stigma of wrongdo

ing, and suspends the letter of the law in the interest of justice. President

Roosevelt’s statement in 1943 that Chinese exclusion was a “historic

mistake” and an “injustice against the Chinese people”103 provided a

basis for amnesty. Although the Confession Program fell short of such a

resolution, it nevertheless stabilized the grounds upon which Chinese

Americans would continue to struggle for racial equality and the full

rights of citizenship.

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28 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998


An earlier version of this essay was presented at the Association of Asian American Studies meeting in Washington, D.C., in June 1996. I wish to thank the following people for assistance with sources and for critical feedback to this and earlier versions of this article: Elizabeth Blackmar, Alan Brinkley, Gordon H. Chang, Barbara J. Fields, Eric Foner, Him Mark Lai, Yvonne Louie, Waverly Lowell, Adam McKeown, Henry Yu, Betty Lee Sung, Eric Wakin, Kevin Scott Wong and Michael Zakim.

1. On Chinese exclusion, see generally Mary Coolidge, Chinese Immigration (New York, 1909) and Sucheng Chan, ed., Entry Denied: Exclusion and the Chi nese Community in America, 1882-1943 (Philadelphia, 1991). For legal studies of Chinese exclusion, see Lucy Salyer, Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Making of Modern Immigration Law (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1995), Bill Ong Hing, Making and Remaking Asian America through Immigration Policy: 1850 to 1990 (Stanford, Calif., 1990). On nineteenth-century anti-Chinese movement and exclusion, see Alexander Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy (Berkeley, Calif., 1974); Charles McClain, The Struggle for Equality: The Chinese Struggle Against Dis crimination in Nineteenth-Century America (Berkeley, Calif., 1994). On socio-eco nomic and cultural consequences of exclusion, see for example Paul Siu, The Chi nese Laundryman: A Study in Social Isolation (New York, 1987), Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men (New York, 1980), Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Differ ent Shore (Boston, 1979).

2. INS annual reports from 1957 to 1965 indicate 30,460 Chinese whose claims to American citizenship were revealed as fraudulent, amounting to 25.8 percent of the 117,629 Chinese counted in the 1950 U.S. Census.

3. Madeline Hsu, “Gold Mountain Dreams and Paper Son Schemes,” Chinese America: History and Perspectives 1997 (San Francisco, 1997), pp. 46-60.

4. Chinese exclusion was first enacted in 1882 (22 Stat. 58) and extended in

definitely in 1904 (33 Stat. 428). Under Section 6 of the law, persons of the exempt classes were admissible with certificates issued by the Chinese government attest

ing to their status. Congress repealed the exclusion laws in 1943 (57 Stat. 600). 5. A trend toward native birth citizenship claims was encouraged by two Su

preme Court rulings during the 1890s. Lern Moon Sing (158 U.S. 538 [1895]) limited judicial review in cases where prospective immigrants’ claims to exempt status were rejected by the customs collector. In Wong Kim Ark (169 U.S. 649

[1898]) the Court upheld birthright citizenship for Chinese under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Nationality Act of 1870 (16 Stat. 2254) granted “derivative citi

zenship” to children born abroad of American citizens. The Immigration Service treated Chinese American derivative citizens entering the United States for the first time as though they were immigrants, subjecting them to immigration inspection and interrogation. Throughout the exclusion era Chinese could hold American citi

zenship only by native birth and derivation; the exclusion laws deemed Chinese to be ineligible for naturalization. Ineligibility was extended to Japanese and Asian Indians by two Supreme Court rulings, Ozawa (1922) and Thind (1923), and was the foundation for Japanese exclusion in the Immigration Act of 1924. On the racial

prerequisites of naturalization, see Ian Haney-Lopez, White by Law: The Legal Construction of Whiteness (New York, 1995).

6. Timothy Malloy, “A Century of Chinese Immigration,” INS Monthly Review, December 1947, p. 73.

7. Salyer, Laws Harsh as Tigers, pp. 69-93.

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8. File 9969-36, Segregated Chinese Files, Immigration and Naturalization Ser vice (INS), Record Group 85, National Archives, Pacific Sierra Region. The same scenario is enacted in hundreds of Chinese case files in the custody of the National

Archives. Although Yee Ying Toy’s confession revealed two generations of paper sons, the record does not show whether or not Yee Ot Wah’s original entry was based on a fraudulent claim. The man who testified as his brother might have been a true brother or might have been an arranged witness secured by the Six Compa nies.

9. The interrogations, concerned with minutiae like “in what direction does your house face?” and “how many oxen does your village own?” had nothing to do with the immigrants’ real lives but only with INS’s transcripts of past interviews, against

which each incoming immigrant’s answers were compared. Madeline Hsu, “Gold Mountain Dreams,” p. 51.

10. U.S. Department of Labor, Annual Report of the Commissioner General of Immigration to the Secretary of Labor, 1925, pp. 22-23. Chinese immigrants were

overwhelmingly male owing to the practice of sending men to labor for remittance and the inadmissibility of Chinese alien wives of American citizens, hence the term

“paper sons.” There were some “paper daughters,” but they were relatively few. See

Sucheng Chan, “Exclusion of Chinese Women,” in Entry Denied, ed. Sucheng Chan, p. 130. Chinese women immigrants at the turn of the century mostly com

prised wives of merchants and prostitutes, the latter often brought in under the guise of servants, daughters, or wives of merchants. See Judy Yung, Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco (Berkeley, Calif., 1995).

11. Joseph Swing interview with Ed Edwin, 21 June 1964. Eisenhower Admin istration Oral History Project, Columbia University, p. 54.

12. Mary Coolidge, Chinese Immigration, p. 324. 13. The concept of ineligibility to citizenship, based on a supposed

unassimilability, was the central theme of the California Joint Immigration Com mittee (CJIC), the leading Asiatic exclusion lobby during the early twentieth cen

tury. In addition to calling American-born Chinese “pseudo-citizens” the CJIC

commonly referred to Chinese and Japanese as “in?ligibles,” as though ineligibil ity?a legal status?were a natural state of being. See, for example, V.S. McClatchy, “Addendum to Speaker’s Brief,” 10 October 1932. Statements 1932, CJIC, Bancroft

Library, University of California, Berkeley. 14. From Poem #22, translated from the Chinese, in Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim,

and Judy Yung, Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 (Seattle, 1980), p. 58.

15. U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Hearings Before the President’s

Commission on Immigration and Naturalization, 30 September 1952 et seq. (Wash ington, D.C., 1952), pp. 1042-3.

16. The global, race-based Chinese quota was thus qualitatively different from all other immigration quotas, which were based on country of origin. To underscore

the point Congress granted a separate annual quota of 100 for “non-Chinese per sons” of China. By establishing a racial quota for Chinese, Congress sought to

prevent Chinese from emigrating from Hong Kong under the British quota and to forestall unlimited emigration of Chinese from Latin American nations, which had no quotas. See Fred Riggs, Pressures on Congress: A Study in the Repeal of Chi nese Exclusion (New York, 1950), pp. 38-51; E.P. Hutchinson, Legislative History of American Immigration Policy (Philadelphia, 1981), pp. 309-13.

17. After World War II, Congress established non-quota immigration for war brides and Chinese alien wives of American citizens. A 1947 amendment to the

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30 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

War Brides Act of 1945 specifically included Asians. The Refugee Relief Act of 1953 provided additional quota spaces for Chinese. Between 1944 and 1960,42,935

Chinese immigrants entered the United States. Of these, nearly two-thirds were either wives (16,985) or refugees (10,376). Since refugees with relatives in America

were given preference, postwar immigration significantly contributed to family re unification. On postwar non-quota immigration, see Roger Daniels and Harvey

Kitano, Asian Americans: Emerging Minorities (Englewood, N.J., 1988), p. 14. On

Refugee Relief Act, see I&N Reporter, vol. 3, no. 1 (July 1957): 23, 25. 18. Timothy Malloy, “A Century of Chinese Immigration,” p. 73. 19. U.S. Department of State, Passport Division, “Procedures for Documenta

tion of Persons of Chinese Origin Who Claim American Citizenship for the First

Time,” 4 August 1950, in U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Hearings Be

fore the President’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization: 422-3.

20. A federal district judge found the use of blood tests by the INS to be

discriminatory because they were applied only to Chinese cases {Lee Kum Hoy et al. v. Shaughnessey, 133 F. Supp. 850 [1955]), but the Supreme Court ruled their use was legitimate as long as the INS agreed to apply blood tests to all citizenship claimants without regular documentation such as birth certificates (Hoy v.

Shaughnessey, on certiorari [1957]). Some Chinese opposed the blood test as a form of “self-incrimination,” since it could only disprove, and not prove, paternity. See Chinese World (San Francisco), 8 November 1955.

21. Benjamin Gim interview with author, 19 February 1993. 22. Chinese World, 25, 27 April 1956; Office of Security, “Staff Study on Hong

Kong Police Liaison,” 21 May 1956. File l-C/4, Declassified Decimal Files, 1953 1960. Lot File 62-D-256. Records of the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs,

General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59, National Archives

(hereafter cited as ”

l-C/4, SCA.” Unless otherwise stated, State Department corre

spondence and Foreign Service Despatches cited are from this Lot file). 23. Chinese World, 26 April 1956. 24. Section 503 of the Nationality Act of 1940 (54 Stat. 1148) provided the

right of judicial review in contested citizenship claims. That right was repealed by the Immigration Act of 1952, but a grace period was established which allowed claimants until 31 December 1955 to file suits. Everett F. Drumright, Consul Gen eral, “Report on the Problem of Passport Fraud at Hong Kong,” Foreign Service

Despatch 931, 9 December 1955, pp. 19-29. File 122.4732/12-955, Central Files, General Records of the Department of State, RG 59, National Archives, 46. See also San Francisco Examiner, 1 March 1956.

25. Jack Minor, Office of Security, Investigations, to Dennis Flynn, Dir., Office of Security, 13 July 1955, l-C/4, SCA.

26. Jack Minor and Halleck Rose, Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs, “Report on Survey of Investigative Section and Refugee Relief Program at the Consulate General in Hong Kong,” 14 July 1955; Jack Minor and Halleck Rose to Scott McLeod, 14 July 1955. l-C/4, SCA.

27. Basil Capella, Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs, to Everett Drumright, 15 No vember 1955; Scott McLeod, SCA to Walter Spencer Robertson, Bureau of Far Eastern Affairs, 8 September 1955; Loy Henderson, Department of State, to Harley Kilgore, Senate Sub-Committee on Appropriations for the Departments of State and Justice, 23 February 1956, all l-C/4, SCA. The plan called for increasing the number of American investigators from seven to thirty; the remaining positions were to be filled by local Chinese investigators who would work under the Ameri cans’ direction. See also Chinese World, 24 March 1956.

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Ngai 31

28. E. J. Kahn, The China Hands: America’s Foreign Service Officers and What

Befell Them, 2nd ed. (New York, 1975), pp. 1, 9, 37. See also Earl Newsom, Drumright! The Glory Days of a Boom Town (Perkins, Okla., 1985).

29. John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment (New York, 1982), pp. 115

116, 169-171; Gordon H. Chang, Friends and Enemies, the U.S., China, and the Soviet Union, 1948-1972 (Stanford, Calif., 1991), pp. 165-169.

30. The Kuomintang’s policy was consistent with the racialized Chinese immi

gration laws of the U.S., which also defined Chinese on a global, racial basis. The racial basis of Chinese exclusion and post-exclusion immigration quotas reinforced the Chinese concept hua qiao (overseas Chinese).

31. Stephen Fitzgerald, China and the Overseas Chinese (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 5-11, 79,104-107; Chinese World, 18 August 1955,2 May 1957.

32. Drumright, “Report on the Problem of Passport Fraud at Hong Kong,” pp. 1-3, 79-80.

33. Maurice Rice, Consul, “Recent Communist Chinese Policy toward Ameri

can-Chinese,” Foreign Service Despatch 1485, 5 June 1956, 2. l-C/4, SCA. Rice stated that communist propaganda aimed at youth was so successful that “occa

sional American-Chinese visiting Hong Kong have informed the Consulate General that they do not wish to apply for their sons or grandsons to go to the U. S. since the

Communists have ‘ruined their minds.’”

34. Ibid., p. 34.

35. Fitzgerald, China and the Overseas Chinese, pp. 100-107. Fitzgerald cites Liao Ch’eng-chih, a high-ranking official in the official Overseas Chinese Affair

Commission, as having instructed, “Overseas Chinese shall not make revolution.

They will not succeed even if they make revolution.” Fitzgerald also contends that overseas Chinese since 1949 have been predominantly “non-compliant” to Beijing political direction, notwithstanding the real and alleged participation of ethnic Chi nese in indigenous revolutionary movements.

36. Drumright, “Report on the Problem of Passport Fraud,” pp. 49-52,25-26. 37. Everett F. Drumright, “Proposals to Better Cope with the Problem of Fraud

at Hong Kong,” Foreign Service Despatch 942, 13 December 1955. Also Drumright to Capella, 18 October 1955. l-C/4, SCA.

38. Report by committee representing Far Eastern Affairs, Office of Passport, Visa Office, Office of Security, and Office of Special Consular Services, Jack

Minor, Chair, 4 January 1956, 4. l-C/4, SCA (hereafter cited as “Minor report.”). 39. The Passport and Visa Offices were especially frustrated by Drumright’s

“suspend and defer” practice and demanded that it be stopped. Frances Knight, Passport Office, to Haywood P. Martin, Executive Director, SCA, 5 December

1955, and Rolland Welch, Visa Office, to Martin, 15 December 1955. l-C/4, SCA. 40. Drumright to Capella, 18 October 1955; Minor report, 6. See also Drumright,

“Proposals to Better Cope with the Problem of Fraud at Hong Kong.” 41. Drumright, “Proposals to Better Cope with the Problem of Fraud at Hong

Kong.” 42. Drumright to Scott McLeod, 4 May 1956. l-C/4, SCA. On fraudulent con

fessions, see Drumright, “Report on Problem of Passport Fraud at Hong Kong,” p. 37.

43. Drumright to McLeod, 21 June and 25 July 1956. l-C/4, SCA. 44. See note 16.

45. The Far Eastern Bureau believed Security and Consular Affairs was unfair

to the Consul General and held reservations about the Minor committee’s treatment

of the Drumright report. The department treated Drumright carefully, going so far

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32 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

as to send Scott McLeod, the administrator of SCA, to Hong Kong in January 1956 to personally explain the department’s policies to him. H.P. Martin, Executive Dir., SCA to Scott McLeod, 25 January 1956. On Drumright’s temperament, see Jack

Minor and Halleck Rose to Scott McLeod, 14 July 1955. At the same time the Department proceeded to implement its policies in Hong

Kong. The Office of Security took administrative control of the consulate’s investi

gative unit and continued to dispatch investigative teams to the post. Dennis Flinn, Director, Office of Security to Aaron Coleman, Chief, Investigative Section, Ameri can Consulate General, Hong Kong, 9 December 1955. l-C/4, SCA.

46. Scott McLeod to Drumright, 14 September 1956. The department autho rized Drumright’s request to fingerprint visa and passport applicants but insisted that provisions for fingerprinting be applied globally to pre-empt charges of racial discrimination. Minor report, 8. On Chinese quota, see note 16.

47. U.S. President’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization, “Whom Shall We Welcome,” Report (Washington, D.C., 1952); Stephen Wagner, “The

Lingering Death of the National Origins Quota System: A Political History of U.S.

Immigration Policy, 1952-1965” (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1986). See also on foreign policy considerations in immigration policy, Robert Divine, American

Immigration Policy, 1924-1952 (New Haven, 1957), p. 189; John Higham, “The Politics of Immigration Restriction,” Send These to Me (Baltimore, Md., 1984, 1975), p. 63.

Reformers opposed the quota system principally because it discriminated against eastern and southern Europeans, although the Chinese race quota embarrassed many liberals. Walter believed reforming the quotas would lead to “an influx of Orien tals” into the United States. Wagner, “Lingering Death”; David Reimers, Still the

Golden Door: The Third World Comes to America (New York, 1981); Meg Greenfield, “The Melting Pot of Francis E. Walter,” The Reporter (New York), 26 October 1961.

48. Robert Cartwright, Acting Admin., SCA, to Walter Yeagley, Chairman, Interdepartmental Committee on Internal Security, 18 September 1956. l-C/4, SCA;

Kahn, The China Hands, p. 277. 49. Chinese World, 3 March 1956. 50. Office of Security, “Federal Court Actions in Chinese Passport Cases,” n.d.

1-C/3.1,SCA. 51. Dennis Flinn, Security, to Scott McLeod, “Chinese Fraud Cases, San Fran

cisco,” 1 March 1956. l-C/3.1, SCA; INS SF District Director Bruce Barber to

Commissioner, Central Office, 5 March 1956. 56364/51.6, Records of the U.S.

Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Washington, D.C. 52. Newspaper clipping, 2 March 1956, unidentified source, in 56341/51.6,

Records of the INS, Washington, D.C. 53. Chinese World, 3 March 1956. 54. Lim P. Lee memoirs, cited by Serena Chen, “A Look Back at the Chinese

Confession Program,” East West News (San Francisco), 23 April 1987. 55. Maurice Chuck interview with author, 24 January 1993; see also Franklin

Woo interview in Victor Nee and Brett deBary Nee, Longtime Californ’ (New York, 1972), p. 216; Him Mark Lai et al., The Chinese in America, 1785-1980: An Illustrated History (San Francisco, 1980), p. 73.

56. Mae M. Ngai, “The Politics of Immigration: The Cold War, McCarthyism, and the Chinese in America,” (M.A. thesis, Columbia University, 1993). See also Peter Kwong, Chinatown, New York: Labor and Politics 1930-1950 (New York, 1979); Renqui Yu, To Save China, To Save Ourselves (Philadelphia, 1990); Him

Mark Lai, “To Bring Forth a New China, To Build a Better America: The Chinese

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Ngai 33

Marxist Left in America,” Chinese America: History and Perspectives 1992, pp. 3 82. On relations between the CCBA and Kuomintang in the U. S., see Victor Nee and Brett deBary Nee, Longtime Californ

‘ and “The Kuomintang in Chinatown” in

Counterpoint, ed. Emma Gee (Los Angeles, 1976); Him Mark Lai, “The Kuomintang in Chinese American Communities Before World War II,” in Entry Denied, ed.


57. On Six Companies and CCBA historical role in Chinese communities, see Him Mark Lai, “The CCBA/Huiguan System,” Chinese America, History and Per

spectives 1987 (San Francisco, 1987), pp. 13-51; Lucy Salyer, Laws Harsh as

Tigers’, Charles McClain, In Search of Equality. U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U. S.

649(1898). 58. On the experience of Chinese Americans in the post-World War II period,

see Roger Daniels, Asian America: The Chinese and the Japanese in the U.S. since 1850 (Seattle, 1988); S.W. Kung, Chinese in American Life (Seattle, 1962); and

especially Rose Hum Lee, The Chinese in the United States of America (Hong Kong, 1960), the most comprehensive contemporary study of the post-war period. Lee believed the growth of the American-born Chinese population would lead to the decline of the CCBA.

59. Chinese World, 16 March 1956. 60. Leftists who were called before the grand jury were by this time too isolated

to resist on their own. On March 6 Happy Lim, the secretary of the Chinese Mutual Aid Workers Association, responded to an order to appear and testified before the

grand jury. Lim told the grand jury that the association had been a clearinghouse for Chinese salmon cannery workers in Alaska during the 1940s but that the organiza tion was now defunct. San Francisco News, 1 March 1956.

61. Chinese Journal (New York), 7, 8 March 1956; English translation in J.

Edgar Hoover, FBI, to Dennis Flinn, Office of Security, State Department, “Move ment of Communist Chinese, Internal Security-CH,” 22 May 1956. l-C/3.1, SCA.

62. Shing Tai Liang interview with author, 14 January 1993; Memorandum of Conversation, Wellington Koo, Chinese Ambassador, Mr. Sebald, Far Eastern Af

fairs, Mr. McConoughy, Chinese Affairs, “U.S. Grand Jury Investigations of Chi nese Passport Fraud Cases,” 13 March 1956. l-C/4, SCA; State Department to Chinese Embassy, Aide-Memoire, 27 March 1956. l-C/3.1, SCA.

62. Chinese World, 1 March 1956. 63. Ibid. 64. Li Ta-ming, “A Critique of the Report of the Consul General in Hong

Kong,” World Journal (n.d.). The author thanks Adam McKeown for this reference. 65. Chinese World, 18, 20,21 April 1956. Dai Ming Lee was a Constitutionalist

who represented a political position both anti-Communist and anti-KMT. 66. Hong Kong Tiger Standard, 3 March 1956; China Mail, 27 March 1956;

South China Morning Post, 29 March 1956, all cited in “Hong Kong Press and Governmental Reaction to Consular Fraud Problems at Hong Kong,” Foreign Ser

vice Despatch 1330, 14 April 1956. l-C/4, SCA. 67. Oliver J. Carter, U.S. District Judge, “In the Matter of the Application of the

Presidents, Secretaries, Treasurers, and Custodians of Records of Certain Chinese

Family Benevolent and District Associations to quash Grand Jury subpoenas duces tecum.” Misc. No. 8016, Memorandum and Order, U.S. District Court for the

Northern District of California, Southern Division, 20 March 1956; Chinese World, 27 March 1956.

68. Dennis Flinn, Security, to Scott McLeod, SCA and Edward Crouch, Budget, “San Francisco Passport and Immigration Frauds, Grand Jury Investigation” (staff paper), 25 April 1956. l-C/3.1, SCA. In San Francisco the State Department and

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34 Journal of American Ethnic History / Fall 1998

INS fought over jurisdiction and control of the investigation. Flinn believed the INS’s participation in passport investigations was part of INS Commissioner Swing’s

plan to get “his own Foreign Service.” 69. Chinese World, 14 June 1956. 70. William Bartley, Regional Intelligence Office, Southeast Region to Edwin

Howard, Asst. Commissioner, Field Inspection and Security Division, Central Of

fice, 24 October 1956. SE 80/62.1, Records of the INS, Washington, D.C. Scott

McLeod, SCA to Herbert Brownell, Attorney General, 12 April 1956. l-C/3.1, SCA.

71. James Cavanaugh, Special Agent in Charge, “SF Chinese Passport and Im

migration Frauds, Grand Jury Investigation, Summary Report,” 12 June 1956. 1-C/

3.1, SCA; George Spoth, Reporting Agent, “NY Chinese Passport and Immigration Frauds, Grand Jury Inv., Composite Report,” 28 March 1956. l-C/3.1, SCA.

72. Aaron Coleman, Chief, Investigative Section, American Consulate General, Hong Kong, to Dennis Flinn, Director, Office of Security, 15 May 1956; Coleman, “Report on Civil Action Cases to be Investigated in Hong Kong,” Foreign Service

Despatch 102, 7 August 1956. l-C/4, SCA. 73. Cavanaugh, “SF Chinese Passport and Immigration Frauds,” 12 June 1956. 74. Scott McLeod to Lou Henderson, “Summary of Accomplishments in Pass

port Investigation Field from May 1,1995 to July 31,1956”; 14 September 1956 1

C/4, SCA. 75. Chinese World, 1, 4 May 1956; New York Times, 4 May 1956, 20 February

1957. 76. Benjamin Gim interview. 77. National Conference of Chinese Communities in America, March 5-7, 1957,

report and proceedings, pp. 16,29-36,42-A3 (in possession of author). 78. “Statement of National Conference of Chinese Communities in America,” 7

March 1957, Washington, D.C, National Conference of Chinese Communities in

America,pp. 14-15.

79. The convenors clarified to the press that the conference proceedings would have “no international significance” and the Nationalist embassy in Washington announced it would play no role. Chinese World, 1 March 1957; Chinese World, 9

February and 20 March 1957. 80. Shing Tai Liang interview. 81. Annual Report of the Attorney General of the U.S., 1957 (U.S. Department

of Justice), p. 442. See also “Chinese Confession Program Highlights Year-end

Report,” INS Information Bulletin, 8 January 1960, p. 2. 82. Ralph Stanley, Oriental Fraud Unit, to Ralph Harris, Assistant District Di

rector for Investigations, San Francisco, 19 December 1956, 56364/51.6, Records of the INS, Washington, D.C.

83. Ibid.; INS Southwest Region Investigations Monthly Activity Report, 15 November 1956, 56364/51.6, Records of the INS, Washington, D.C.

84. Raymond F. Farrell, Asst. Commissioner, Investigations Division, Central

Office, to Regional Commissioners, 6 February 1957, 56364/51.6, Records of the

INS, Washington, D.C.

85. Joseph Swing interview, p. 54; Benjamin Gim to author, 4 March 1993. The

September 1957 act, Public Law 85-316, 71 Statute-at-Large 639, has been mistak

enly construed as the legal statute governing the Confession Program. However, the

INS would not apply the 1957 law to paper sons; according to the Service, Con

gress intended that law to assist Mexican immigrant families who would suffer

hardship if an illegal family member were deported. The Service reasoned that Chinese paper sons were ineligible for relief under the 1957 amendment because

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Ngai 35

they had entered as citizens and not as aliens, and had therefore not gone through immigrant inspection, a specious argument since the INS had ruled on the admissi

bility of derivative citizens since the 1890s (see note 5). In 1972 the Ninth Circuit of U.S. District Court overturned that policy and ruled that confessed paper sons

were eligible for relief under the 1957 act. By that time, however, the Confession

Program no longer existed. See Lee Fook Chuey v. INS, 439 F. 2nd 244. 86. The INS never publicly announced an official termination of the Confession

Program, but unpublished INS documents report the end of the program variously as December 1965 and February 1966. “A History of Chinese Immigration,” 31 December 1972, p. 14; “Chinese Confession Program nd, p. 3. Records of the INS,

Washington, D.C. However, the INS took confessions as late as the early 1970s. 87. Ibid. 88. Ibid.; Benjamin Gim interview. 89. Benjamin Gim interview; Maurice Chuck interview. 90. Stanley to Harris, 19 December 1956. 91. Ibid. 92. Benjamin Gim interview. 93. Matter ofC_, in Deportation Proceedings, 1 INS Decision 608 (1957). 94. Elmer Freed, “Immigration and Nationality Law,” New York University Law

Review vol. 35 (January 1960): 191; Interview with Francis Leo, Chinese inter

preter for the INS in San Francisco, by Serena Chen, in “A Look Back at the Chinese Confession Program,” East West, 23 April 1987; Stanley to Harris, 19 December 1955.

95. Benjamin Gim interview. J. Edgar Hoover also took a direct interest in the Confession Program. Raymond Farrell, Asst. Commissioner, Investigations Divi

sion, Central Office, to Regional Commissioner, Southeast Region, 22 March 1956, 56364/51.6 Inv., Records of the INS, Washington, D.C.

96. INS Annual Report, 1965, p. 11 ; INS Annual Report, 1966, p. 16. 97. Him Mark Lai, “To Bring Forth a New China,” pp. 51-52. 98. INS Order to Show Cause, Lim Gim Foo/Hom Ah Wing; Memo, Emil

Pullin, INS San Francisco to INS District Director, New York, 19 March 1962; INS Record of Sworn Statement by Tom Na Hong, 3 April 1962, New York; letter, Lloyd McMurray to George Daily, 5 December 1961; letter, Emil Pullin to

McMurray, 13 December 1961; all in Lim Gim Foo aka Horn Ah Wing INS file #HO 100-372911; letter Curtis Lyman to Emil Pullin, INS, in Horn Ah Wing FBI file #A11-407-961. INS and FBI files FOIA requests, Gordon Chang.

99. Maurice Chuck interview.

100. Maurice Chuck interview; U.S. v. Chung Man Hwong, Case 16869, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, Southern Division, Tacoma.

101. U.S. v. Dear Wing Jung, a.k.a. Dear Kai Gay, No. 37681, Reporter’s

Transcript Proceedings on Trial, 16 October 1961 et seq.:92-96, 137, 143, 188 192, 212; Order of Proof, 19 October 1961; Proceedings on Sentence, Reporter’s

Transcript, 15 December 1961:7-8; Dear Wing Jung v. U.S., No. 17,785, Appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Cal., Southern Div.

102. Dai-Ming Lee, “The Sins of Fathers and Grandfathers,” Chinese World, 18

April 1956. 103. “Message from the President of the United States Favoring the Repeal of

the Chinese Exclusion Laws,” 11 October 1943, reprinted in Fred Riggs, Pressures on Congress, p. 210.

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  • Article Contents
    • p. [3]
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  • Issue Table of Contents
    • Journal of American Ethnic History, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Fall, 1998), pp. 3-163
      • Front Matter
      • Legacies of Exclusion: Illegal Chinese Immigration during the Cold War Years [pp. 3-35]
      • Building the Ideal Immigrant: Reconciling Lithuanianism and 100 Percent Americanism to Create a Respectable Nationalist Movement, 1870-1922 [pp. 36-76]
      • Teaching and Outreach
        • The Pedagogy of Public History [pp. 77-92]
      • Review Essay
        • Review: Heartland Pluralism: Middle Western Ethnicities and Mentalities [pp. 93-102]
        • Review: Slaves, Workers, and Race Rebels [pp. 103-108]
        • Review: An Intellectual Odyssey: Chicana/Chicano Studies Moving into the Twenty-First Century [pp. 109-114]
      • Reviews
        • Review: untitled [pp. 115-116]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 116-118]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 118-121]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 121-123]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 123-124]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 124-125]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 125-126]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 126-127]
        • Review: untitled [p. 128-128]
        • Review: untitled [p. 129-129]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 129-132]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 132-133]
        • Review: untitled [p. 133-133]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 134-135]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 135-136]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 136-137]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 137-138]
        • Review: untitled [p. 138-138]
        • Review: untitled [p. 139-139]
        • Review: untitled [p. 140-140]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 140-141]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 141-143]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 143-145]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 145-146]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 146-147]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 147-148]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 148-149]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 150-152]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 152-153]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 153-154]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 154-156]
        • Review: untitled [pp. 156-158]
      • Notes on Contributors [pp. 159-163]
      • Back Matter

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