Wong Kim Ark was born in the family of Chinese immigrants in San Francisco. His year of birth is unknown. It was “sometime between 1868 and 1873” (Hu & Dong 185). His parents were subjects of Emperor of China. In 1890, they came back in China. Wong Kim Ark remained in the United States at that time. Later that year, he went to China to visit his family. Wong returned in the United States “upon the sole ground that he was a native born citizen of the United States” (Hu & Dong 185). Since he had been working as a cook in California. In 1894, he left for China to visit his parents. In 1895, he was hindered by authorities in San Francisco. He was not allowed to enter the U.S.A. Wong Kim Ark was considered as a subject of Emperor of China. Despite he was born in the United States, had been living there for about 20 years, got education, spoke English fluently, worked there as a cook, he was not recognized as an American citizen for his parents were subjects of Emperor of China.
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Nevertheless, there was another reason to forbid him the country. It was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 forbidden Chinese immigrants to get American citizenship. Chinese were considered to be dangerous to American society because of the backwardness of their style of life and addiction to committing crimes (Lee 67). In 1892, American government adopted another act. It was the Geary Act. Under it, all Chinese in America had to be registered by the federal authorities to get a certificate of residence. Thus, American government renewed the Exclusion Act in 1892 and 1904 to protect the United States from Chinese invasion. In 1877, American Congress concluded that Chinese race was “an indigestible mass in the community, distinct in language, pagan in religion, inferior in mental and moral qualities and all peculiarities” (Lee 70). Thus, American Congress approved the prohibition of American citizenship for Chinese. The abovementioned act was repealed in 1943 only.
Thus, under the abovementioned act, custom collector John H. Wise prohibited Wong Kim Ark to enter the United States. Wise stated that Wong was not an American citizen and did not have right for the readmission according to the Exclusion Act. Wong Kim Ark was put under arrest. He was under custody for over four months. After that, Wong hired attorney Thomas Riordan for being lawlessly confined. Wong also challenged getting American citizenship according to the Fourteen Amendment because he was born in the United States, lived there and “had been taxed, recognized, and treated as a citizen of the United States” (Lee 71).
A district attorney was Henry S. Foote. He stated that American birthplace was not an excuse to get American citizenship for Chinese. Moreover, Foote considered that Wong’s “education and political affiliation remained entirely alien” (Lee 71) to get American citizenship. Thus by the Foote’s opinion, Wong was a subject of the Emperor of China for his both parents were Chinese and did not have American citizenship. Moreover, Foote stated that Wong was raised by the Chinese, the alien race. Thus, Wong could not get American citizenship despite his American birthplace. Moreover, Foote stated to recognize Wong as an American citizen would be dangerous for American society.
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Judge William Morrow admitted that American birthplace of Wong was a sufficient reason to consider him as an American citizen regardless of his parents’ nationalities. According to his opinion, only a punishment for a crime was a sufficient reason to withdraw American nationality. Thus, according to the verdict in the case of 1898 Wong Kim Ark v. the United States, every person born in the United States is an American citizen “entitled to all of the rights that citizenship offers” (Lee 72). It was the fair verdict because the Chinese Exclusion Act was a manifestation of xenophobia similar to Hitlerism.
- Hu, Sen Dong, Jielin. The Rock Road to Liberty. A Documented History of Chinese Immigration Exclusion. Saratoga CA: Javvin Press, 2010. Print.
- Lee, Erika. Wong Kim Ark: Chinese American Citizens U.S. Exclusion Laws 1882-1943. The Human Tradition in California. New York NY: SR Books, 2002. Print.