Wong Kim Ark's Story

Wong Kim Ark's Story

Family Background

Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco to Chinese immigrant parents, who were not United States Citizens due to the Naturalization Law of 1802.

A Series of Events

In November, 1894, Wong made a visit to China. When he returned in August, 1895, he was denied permission to re-enter the United States due to not being considered an American citizen.

“Because the said Wong Kim Ark, although born in the city and county of San Francisco, State of California, United States of America, is not, under the laws of the State of California and of the United States, a citizen thereof, the mother and father of the said Wong Kim Ark being Chinese persons and subjects of the Emperor of China, and the said Wong Kim Ark being also a Chinese person and a subject of the Emperor of China.”​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​~ 169 U.S. at 650

Book cover, Story of Wong Kim Ark by Brockenbrough and Lin, 2021

Wong Kim Ark argued that as he was born on American soil, he was an American citizen. Wong spent the next 5 months aboard steamships off the coast of San Francisco until his case was determined under a single question:

“[Is] a child born in the United States, of parent[s] of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, become at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States?”

~ United States v. Wong Kim Ark

​​​​His petition for habeas corpus was successful, and his case went to the Supreme Court.

“Habeas corpus, noun: a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the persons’ release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention.”

~ Merriam Webster Dictionary

Supreme Court Justices, United States v. Wong Kim Ark's case

Wong Kim Ark’s application to the Commissioner of Immigration, San Francisco

Wong Kim Ark's immigration documents

“The acts of Congress known as the 'Chinese Exclusion Acts,' prohibiting persons of the Chinese race, and especially Chinese laborers, from coming into the United States, do not and cannot apply to him.”

~ Associate Justice Horace Gray

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