"...In all my research about Angel Island, I have not run across a worse case than Wong Shee's to show the horrific impact of exclusion and detention on people's lives..."
~ Judy Yung, Professor Emerita of American Studies , University of California, Santa Cruz, and co-author of the history book Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway To America
Thank You MC Anna Eshoo!
HOM WONG SHEE & WHY IT MATTERS: A SUMMARY OF THE PETITION TO CONGRESS FOR AN APOLOGY AND A QUESTION FOR THE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ABOUT SENATE RESOLUTION 201 AND THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT OF 1882 떬>
Two years ago I launched a petition to the United States Congress for a public apology to the Hom family and all others concerned about the privately acknowledged inhumane treatment of Hom Wong Shee (Wong Toy Heung) while she was held in custody at the United States Immigration Service San Francisco Station from October 23 to November 19, 1941(1).
In the months between then and now, I have sent out in directions academic, religious, secular, and legislative the case for an apology to Wong Shee.
The Congress now has received from the United States Senate SR201, a bill which speaks to the matter of an apology for the enforcement abuses suffered by persons subject to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.The official objective of the Exclusion Act was an attempt to control unskilled labor entering the United States from China.The application of the Exclusion Act on the ground soon expanded beyond its stated limits to subject any Chinese person entering the United States from 1882 to 1943 to lengthy detentions by the Immigration Service until they were declared exempt or not exempt from the definition of “unskilled labor” and either excluded and deported or allowed to land in America.
Hom Wong Shee was one of Exclusions many victims.
The wife of a US Army WWI veteran who himself was the son of a native born citizen, Hom Wong Shee was granted an exemption to the Act and given permission to join her husband in Pittsburgh, PA.Wong Shee lived in America for ten years in Pittsburgh (1922-1932) raising seven children (2).At the time of Wong Shee’s custody in San Francisco in 1941, her eldest son Hom You Yee was active US Army and stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia (3).
Wong Shee left the United States for China in 1932.Wong Shee intended to remain in China and did not file a “Laborer’s Return” document with the US at the time of her departure.
Because Wong Shee did not file this single piece of paper, and in spite of the fact that her husband and seven of her nine children resided in the United States, Wong Shee was held at San Francisco and separated from her two 8 & 9-year-old accompanying sons(4).During her custody alone and separated from her children, Wong Shee grew increasingly depressed and showed clear indications of a need for mental healthcare.Wong Shee’s treatment was limited to a dismissal of her emotional state by the Station nurse who described her behavior as typical of Chinese attempting to get around the system(5).
Wong Shee’s disturbed state must only have been exacerbated when she was misinformed by Station staff that her case had been denied.To Wong Shee this would mean deportation to an uncertain and dangerous future in war-torn China.
Soon after receiving this incorrect news, and after her request to visit her detained sons remained ignored, Hom Wong Shee took her life at the San Francisco District Station (6).
So why should this matter to Congress in 2011?
If you are a Member of Congress who does not support a companion bill to SR201, is it not possible in a separate bill to at least apologize to someone who was mistreated by the misapplication of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882?
If you are a Member of Congress who supports a companion bill to SR201, does it not make sense to acknowledge in the text of that companion bill or on the floor of the House one of Exclusion’s most heartfelt victims?Indeed it can be argued that Hom Wong Shee’s suicide set in motion the end of Exclusionist pretensions in America, leading to President Franklin Roosevelt’s description of the Exclusion Act as a “historic mistake” at the time of the rescinding of the Act by the President in 1943.
If you are a Member of Congress with no position on the companion bill to SR201, does the case of Hom Wong Shee not beg for its own representation in Congress, separate from and having no relation to SR201?
Whereas many Chinese came to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, as did people from other countries, in search of the opportunity to create a better life;
Whereas the United States ratified the Burlingame Treaty on October 19, 1868, which permitted the free movement of the Chinese people to, from, and within the United States and made China a ‘most favored nation’;
Whereas in 1878, the House of Representatives passed a resolution requesting that President Rutherford B. Hayes renegotiate the Burlingame Treaty so Congress could limit Chinese immigration to the United States;
Whereas, on February 22, 1879, the House of Representatives passed the Fifteen Passenger Bill, which only permitted 15 Chinese passengers on any ship coming to the United States;
Whereas, on March 1, 1879, President Hayes vetoed the Fifteen Passenger Bill as being incompatible with the Burlingame Treaty;
Whereas, on May 9, 1881, the United States ratified the Angell Treaty, which allowed the United States to suspend, but not prohibit, immigration of Chinese laborers, declared that ‘Chinese laborers who are now in the United States shall be allowed to go and come of their own free will,’ and reaffirmed that Chinese persons possessed ‘all the rights, privileges, immunities, and exemptions which are accorded to the citizens and subjects of the most favored nation’;
Whereas the House of Representatives passed legislation that adversely affected Chinese persons in the United States and limited their civil rights, including--
(1) on March 23, 1882, the first Chinese Exclusion bill, which excluded for 20 years skilled and unskilled Chinese laborers and expressly denied Chinese persons alone the right to be naturalized as American citizens, and which was opposed by President Chester A. Arthur as incompatible with the terms and spirit of the Angell Treaty;
(2) on April 17, 1882, intending to address President Arthur’s concerns, the House passed a new Chinese Exclusion bill, which prohibited Chinese workers from entering the United States for 10 years instead of 20, required certain Chinese laborers already legally present in the United States who later wished to reenter the United States to obtain ‘certificates of return,’ and prohibited courts from naturalizing Chinese individuals;
(3) on May 3, 1884, an expansion of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which applied it to all persons of Chinese descent, ‘whether subjects of China or any other foreign power’;
(4) on September 3, 1888, the Scott Act, which prohibited legal Chinese laborers from reentering the United States and cancelled all previously issued ‘certificates of return,’ and which was later determined by the Supreme Court to have abrogated the Angell Treaty; and
(5) on April 4, 1892, the Geary Act, which reauthorized the Chinese Exclusion Act for another ten years, denied Chinese immigrants the right to be released on bail upon application for a writ of habeas corpus, and contrary to customary legal standards regarding the presumption of innocence, authorized the deportation of Chinese persons who could not produce a certificate of residence unless they could establish residence through the testimony of ‘at least one credible white witness’;
Whereas in the 1894 Gresham-Yang Treaty, the Chinese government consented to a prohibition of Chinese immigration and the enforcement of the Geary Act in exchange for readmission to the United States of Chinese persons who were United States residents;
Whereas in 1898, the United States annexed Hawaii, took control of the Philippines, and excluded only the residents of Chinese ancestry of these territories from entering the United States mainland;
Whereas, on April 29, 1902, as the Geary Act was expiring, Congress indefinitely extended all laws regulating and restricting Chinese immigration and residence, to the extent consistent with Treaty commitments;
Whereas in 1904, after the Chinese government withdrew from the Gresham-Yang Treaty, Congress permanently extended, ‘without modification, limitation, or condition,’ the prohibition on Chinese naturalization and immigration;
Whereas these Federal statutes enshrined in law the exclusion of the Chinese from the democratic process and the promise of American freedom;
Whereas in an attempt to undermine the American-Chinese alliance during World War II, enemy forces used the Chinese exclusion legislation passed in Congress as evidence of anti-Chinese attitudes in the United States;
Whereas in 1943, in furtherance of American war objectives, at the urging of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Congress repealed previously enacted legislation and permitted Chinese persons to become United States citizens;
Whereas Chinese-Americans continue to play a significant role in the success of the United States; and
Whereas the United States was founded on the principle that all persons are created equal: Now, therefore, be it
SECTION 1. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.
That the House of Representatives regrets the passage of legislation that adversely affected people of Chinese origin in the United States because of their ethnicity.
SEC. 2. DISCLAIMER.
Nothing in this resolution may be construed or relied on to authorize or support any claim, including but not limited to constitutionally based claims, claims for monetary compensation or claims for equitable relief against the United States or any other party, or serve as a settlement of any claim against the United States.