Minutes of Boards of Special Inquiry at the San Francisco Immigration Office, 1899–1909; Microfilm publication M1387, 2 rolls; 4499531; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787–2004, Record Group 85; The National Archives in Washington, D.C.
This database contains minutes of INS hearings in San Francisco dealing with appeals from individuals who had been denied entry into the United States.
Until the late 19th century, there were few laws restricting an immigrant’s entrance into the United States. Starting in 1882, however, Congress passed laws that would bar entrance for (among other things) mental deficiencies, contagious disease, people likely to become public charges, criminal background, and unaccompanied minors. These laws also included the Chinese Exclusion Act, which restricted immigration for Chinese laborers. Immigrants who were denied entry could appeal to a “special board of inquiry” to have their cases reviewed. The records in this database come from board of inquiry hearings held in San Francisco.
Among the causes for being denied entry included in these records are "Likely to become a Public Charge, "Temporarily Detained," "Photo Bride," stowaway, transit (whether the alien is truly temporarily stopping in the U.S. on their way to a foreign destination), problems with the person's visa or travel documents, and disease or disability.
What You Can Find in These Records
These records give a short review of the case and indicate if the individual was admitted or denied entrance into the U.S. If rejected, the records will give the reasoning behind the exclusion and often indicate on what ship the individual was returned. As well as details on the case and names of members of the board, you will typically find the following items in the records:
- age at arrival
- arrival date
- arrival place
- ship name