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Chan Kee and Ng Hoong Low

Chan Kee and Ng Hoong Low

Chan Kee arrived in Seattle, Washington on June 7, 1921 on the steamship Princess Charlotte. Chan came to the United States as a Section Six merchant under the Chinese Exclusion Laws. At first, Chan was denied entrance because he had Trachoma. Then, on August 15, 1921, he applied for admission again and was admitted because he produced a medical certificate stating he was healthy. On November 9, 1921, Chan Kee obtained permission to move to New York to work at the Quong Yick Yuen Company. By 1924, he ran the George Chan Laundry at 96 French Street in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 1924, Chan Kee applied for a Laborers’ Return Certificate so that he could go back to China. Chan overstayed his visit in China, and a raid in Hong Kong found a fraudulent doctor’s certificate that belonged to him. (The raid was conducted to investigate a doctor in Hong Kong who was found to be falsifying medical reports. The falsified medical reports allowed Chinese immigrants who had returned to China for visits to extend their visits beyond the allotted one-year period, by stating they were ill and could not travel.) On February 16, 1926, Inspector-in-Charge A.W Brough asked the Commissioner General in Seattle that the Consul General Roger Tredwell in Hong Kong be notified if Chan Kee attempted to reenter the US. According to the file, he never did.

Ng Hoong Low (alias Ng Sang Toy) was born in China in or around the year 1895 in the Sun Ning District. He claimed that he originally arrived in San Francisco when he was approximately 21 years-old. Ng was a laborer in a Chinese laundry located at 377 15th Avenue in Newark, New Jersey. Ng was not a qualified Chinese immigrant under the Chinese Exclusion Laws. He was a laborer who could not prove his birthright citizenship status. He claimed he was never questioned by immigration officials when he arrived in San Francisco and that he did not know the name of the ship he was supposedly brought to America on. Ng gave conflicting statements concerning his parents and his birth in California or China, and claimed to serve time in the United States military but could not produce a draft card. Upon further review of his case by immigration officials, an arrest warrant was issued for Ng. When Ng appeared for a medical appointment at the Newark Eye & Ear Infirmary located at 77 Central Avenue in Newark to treat his trachoma, he was taken into custody by authorities.

Upon reviewing the National Archive files for Chan Kee and Ng Hoong Low, it was interesting to see the amount of effort that was put forth in policing the laws governing Chinese immigrants. To obtain entry into the country, they were subjected to a series of tests and had to possess enough resources to be considered a successful candidate for immigration. Whether it was the requirement that Chinese immigrants provide proof that they were free of trachoma, or the requirement that they show evidence that they had available financial means to support themselves, the far-reaching authority of immigration officials was astounding. The amount of remote control imposed in other countries also shows the far-reaching arm of the United States government and the amount of determination and review put into monitoring immigrants, in particular Chinese immigrants. These cases revealed the extent to which local bureaucrats were also involved in the process by reporting potential illegal immigrants and admitting testimony in those cases. This proves that the law was weighted in favor of those who possessed acceptable resources and forms of capital that the United States government deemed an asset to participation in the United States economy – especially in the cases of Chinese immigrants who were barred from naturalizing as citizens.


-- Urban, Andy, Heggs, Danielle, Montoya, Andrea, Muniz, Danielle, Pericic, Iva

Form 432 for Chan Kee: Application of Lawfully Domiciled Chinese Laborer for Return Certificate (1924)

Form 432 was a document completed by Chinese immigrant laborers, stating that they were owed at least $1000 in debts. Under the Exclusion laws, this was required for Chinese laborers who had arrived in the United States before 1882, and wished to lawfully reenter the country after visiting China.

Health Certificate for Chan Kee issued by The Canadian Pacific Ocean Services

A certificate provided by the steamship liners that transported immigrants into the United States from foreign ports. According to the Chinese Exclusion Act, Section Nine, the line vessel had to “compar[e] the certificate with the list of passengers” before landing them. If the steamship was not in compliance, they would subject to fines.

Form 535 – Ng Hoong Low: Description of Person Deported (1936)

This deportation order for Ng Hoong Low was issued after he was detained in the Hudson County Jail upon failing a series of inquiries from immigration officials. He was found to be in the country illegally and was to be deported back to his port of origin, Hong Kong.

Statement from August 15, 1921

Since Chan Kee had entered the country with $2,000 in cash, he was able to pay to treat his trachoma. (Otherwise he would have been turned away as a result of his medical condition.) As shown in this statement, the balance of unexpended money was returned to him in the amount of $1,136. This attests to the ability of some Chinese Americans to have enough capital to maintain their legal status. Unlike Ng Hoong Low who had no money for treatment and was forced rely on the public health system for treatment.

Letter from Inspector TJ Molloy dated July 16, 1936 [page 1 of 2]

In this document, the place where Ng was taken into custody is mentioned. It also illustrates the amount of documentation and time that was put into each case and details Inspector Molloy’s investigation and how an immigrant’s status could be investigated from a complaint filed by a public health official.

Steamship Voucher for Ng Hoong Low. Receipt from Dollar Steamship Lines, Inc.

Per Section 12 of the Chinese Exclusion Act, “any Chinese person found unlawfully within the United States shall be caused to be removed there from to the country from whence he came…at the cost of the United States.” Ng’s passage on the SS. President Harrison was booked and paid for by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Immigration, for $162.50.

Newark Eye & Ear Infirmary, site of Trachoma treatment for Ng Hoong Low

After receiving a complaint from the Newark Health Department and questioning Ng at the Essex County Isolation Hospital in Belleville, NJ on June 19, 1936, further action was taken. On July 21, 1936, Ng was taken into custody on a warrant issued charging that he was unlawfully in the country.

Letter from Inspector TJ Molloy dated July 16, 1936 [page 2 of 2]

In this document, the place where Ng was taken into custody is mentioned. It also illustrates the amount of documentation and time that was put into each case and details Inspector Molloy’s investigation and how an immigrant’s status could be investigated from a complaint filed by a public health official.