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Chin Ming and Ng King

Chin Ming and Ng King

Chinese immigrants Ng King and Chin Ming resided in the United States under vastly different circumstances. Ng was working as a merchant in Newark, New Jersey with the firm Kwong Yick & Lung, when Customs officers in New York City received a letter from a man who identified himself as “Chinaman Charley Sung” and from a man allegedly named Henry Fong. Sung and Fong accused Ng of importing illegal Chinese immigrants into the United States from Mexico and harboring them in his store. Sung also accused Ng of smuggling opium into the country. Custom officials forwarded the letter to immigration officials. Chin, also of merchant class, legally entered the United States in January 15, 1921 after obtaining a Certificate of Chinese Subject Exemption Class from Mayoro, Trinidad. This version of the Section Six certificate, issued from Ming’s prior place of residence, provided proof of his merchant status and sound financial standing, allowing him entrance. Chin was quickly approved for entry following his arrival at Ellis Island and issued Certificate of Identity #34429.

The importation of Chinese laborers from foreign countries such as Mexico was illegal and had emerged a means of circumventing restrictions on Chinese immigrants who could no longer enter the United States directly from China. Sung and Fong were undoubtedly aware of this when they reported Ng to officials. It is unclear whether the informants wished to eliminate vice in the Chinese community or if they were involved in illegal activities as well and simply wished to get rid of the competition. (It is unclear if their names were even Charley Sung and Henry Fong, as they claimed.) Chin, on the other hand, had all his documentation and was regarded as an upstanding immigrant. On July 1, 1927, Chin decided to visit his aging parents in China and utilized his legal documents to obtain return status to the United States following the visit. The immigration office recognized Chin’s Certificate of Identity No. 34429, his Section 6 Certificate issued in Trinidad, his New York file number 25/475-S, and the completed Form 432 for return status. Upon examination the U.S. Department of Labor, Immigration Service granted Ming “favorable consideration” to embark on his visit to China.

During Chinese Exclusion, the surreptitious smuggling of Chinese immigrants into the United States became commonplace. The Chinese Exclusion Act did not cause the demand for Chinese labor to dwindle. Smuggling occurred on both the US-Mexican border and the US-Canadian border, as businesses continued to hire Chinese immigrants. For example, labor contractors with ties to Chinese merchants played an active role in orchestrating the smuggling of Chinese migrant labor across the Puget Sound to work in American sawmills. A comparison can be drawn with the employment of undocumented migrants in the United States today. Businesses such as Howard Industries, an electrical products manufacturing firm in Mississippi, have allegedly facilitated the transfer of undocumented migrants from Mexico and instructed migrants on how to obtain false documentation. Despite government regulation during Chinese exclusion and in the present-day, there continues to be a considerable effort on the part of businesses in the smuggling undocumented migrants across the border to obtain a low-wage migrant labor force.


-- Urban, Andy, Cheruvu, Sivaram, FrancoMartin, Rebecca, Jones, Andrew, Malchow, Mark

Cover letter that was submitted along with the Form 432 to the Commissioner of Immigration on behalf of Chin Ming.

Upon Chin Ming’s decision to return to China he filled out Form 432, the “Return Certificate for a Lawfully Domiciled Chinese Laborer,” to facilitate his future reentry into the United States. When he entered the United States, under the terms of the 1893 Geary Act, Chin had to apply for a Certificate of Identity, which he submitted to officials along with his original Section VI certificate indicating his merchant status. As noted, Chin also submitted to an interrogation where he was questioned regarding the purpose of his departure and future reentry.

Letter, stamped and signed, by the Consular Officer of the United States of America.

This document, and the attached image, was used to identify and allow Chin Ming to re-enter the United States. There were quite a few loops that a Chinese immigrant had to jump through in order to enter the United States whether it was initially or as a return entry, and documents such as this one were of the utmost importance to ensure that one could enter the United States.

The Immigration Services at Ellis Island granted Chin Ming's request for return privilege.

The Immigration Service at Ellis Island granted Chin Ming’s request for return privilege. The “favorable consideration” provided by Form 432 would expedite Chin’s reentry into the United States although for Chinese immigrants nothing was guaranteed. Without the Form 432, Chin would not find reentry as simple from China as it had been when he entered from Trinidad with a Section VI Certificate.

Cover letter submitted along with the transcript of Chin Ming's testimony related to the application for a Laborer's Return Certificate (Form 432).

Although Chin entered the United States as a Section Six Merchant, when he visited China in 1927 he was required to complete a Laborer’s Return Certificate (Form 432), stating that he was owed a $1000 in debts (thus allowing him to return despite being categorized as a laborer). This reflects changes in how immigration officials defined merchant. Laundry owners and workers alike were classified as laborers, not merchants.

Letter written by "Chinaman Charley Sung" of Newark, NJ

This letter, written by “Chinaman Charley Sung” of Newark, NJ, was sent to the Customs Office alerting them of Ng King’s alleged illegal importation of Chinese immigrants and opium. It was translated by an interpreter Louis Fong.

The English translation of the letter written by "Chinaman Charley Sung" of Newark, NJ

The Port of New York Customs Service received a letter in Chinese, translated here by interpreter Louis Fong. The details Sung provides suggests that he was close to King in some way. For example, Sung gave a specific time for officials to search King’s residence. Unfortunately there were no further documents detailing the outcome for Ng King related to this matter.