In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act went into effect, banning the entry of Chinese laborers into the U.S. for the next ten years, and allowing the deportation of laborers who entered illegally. In 1892 the Geary Act extended the exclusion act for an additional ten years. Further restrictions were also placed on Chinese-Americans.
This database contains court case files regarding these and other strict immigration laws against the Chinese enforced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It includes case files from:
- The Western District Court of Texas at El Paso, 1892-1915
- The INS District No. 4 Regional Office (Philadelphia), 1900-1923
- San Francisco, California, ca. 1883-ca. 1916
Some Chinese immigrants traveled to Mexico, became citizens there, and then tried to enter the U.S. as Mexicans instead of Chinese. Others tried to enter the U.S. from Mexico, claiming that they were U.S. residents but had been visiting friends and family in Mexico. El Paso, Texas is one of the ports through which Chinese immigrants tried to pass.
The case files from El Paso are arranged numerically and consist of deportation orders, warrants, subpoenas, mittimuses, commitments, statements by Chinese defendants, appeal papers, orders for discharge, and bail bonds. Information provided in these records may include: name of defendant, address, birthplace, birth date, occupation, date of arrival into the U.S., and deportation date.
The case files from Philadelphia are arranged numerically and consist of documentation collected by INS inspectors while investigating the background of Chinese laborers and merchants trying to enter the U.S. Among these case files are the Special Census of Chinese conducted in 1905 and the investigation of Joseph H. Lee, an INS employee who was accused of smuggling Chinese immigrants into the U.S. Information provided in these records may include: name of individual; number of brothers and sisters; details about extended family members; and details about where from.
On the case file jackets some abbreviations may be written following the Chinese person’s surname. These abbreviations are translated as follows:
- D.L. - departing laborer
- D.M. - departing merchants
- M.S. - minor son
- N.B. - native born
- R.L. - returning laborer
- R.M. - returning merchant
The records from San Francisco consist of index cards. The images of these index cards are more or less arranged numerically by court case number, which is listed in the upper left-hand corner of each card (when present). The court name is often listed next to this number and may be written as an abbreviation. These can be translated as follows:
- USDC NDC – U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
- USCC NDC – U.S. Circuit Court for the Northern District of California
- USDC NDNY – U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York
Information listed on the cards may include: name of petitioner, claimant or defendant; INS San Francisco District case file number and date of arrival in the U.S.; names and INS case file numbers for relatives and witnesses; and immigration case file numbers from other INS districts.
10 Aug 2020: Fields that were not previously keyed, were keyed and added to the collection. The newly added fields include case file number, birth place, age, alias name and name of parents. No new records were added.