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The “Paper Sons” Practice – Legal or Not? Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jun 29th, 2020

The end of 19th century was characterized by the intense immigration of Chinese people to the US. The reasons were various, but the tree of them might be distinguished as major. First, the discovering of gold in California. Numerous amounts of people seeking for wealth started to move to the Southwestern coast of America, and Chinese among them (Portes 45). Second, the economic situation in China was hard as China was dominated by the British Empire providing fewer opportunities for common people to earn money and support their families. Third, for all the immigrants America has been a not another place to live or earn money, it was a symbol of opportunities, freedoms, ways to fulfill their potential, live another, better life, change something into a good and prosperous way.

In 1882, the United States government faced a serious problem not capable of conducting a large number of immigrants from China attracted by Californian Golden Rush. In attempts to regulate this constant flow, the Congress issued execution laws that forbade people from China, “Mongolians” to gain American citizenship through naturalization (Hsu 47). That was the first step in preventing Cheese from becoming rightful Americans, leading to their isolations, and unification within communities, making strong international bonds and providing support to people of the same nationality (Kanazawa 801).

Later on the legal practice together with common treatment of Chinese immigrants began leaning towards separation from other American community, as a governmental policy was to mark them as strangers, people of other way of life, people, people that will never be understood by Americans, people that will never accept the American way of life (Lau 14). A good example of disregarding attitude can be demonstrated by the fact that the testimony of Chinese people witnessing against the white man who committed serious crime were not taken into account as the intellectual development of people of this race were considered beyond a certain point (Joo 353).

This neglecting deepened as Chinese began to be considered as threat, due to economic depression and a limited number of working places. And the neglecting and suspicious attitude stayed even decades later when authorities continued to be reprehensible towards Chinese people when providing them with American citizenship (Lai 51)

If to evaluate the situation from the point of legality, it might be considered as violating the Fourteenth Amendment of American Constitution. The Chinese had a full right to apply for the right to stay, work, and later apply for the citizenship, as well as representatives of other nationalities. However, their general right, according to the American laws was disrupted by American authorities themselves.

The only adequate respond Chinese immigrants could come with was introduction of “paper sons” system. As the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that the people who were born in the United States will gain the citizenship, false paper pieces of evidence and documents were made-up by Chinese immigrants. As the person who proved his or her right to be called American by the right of birth, could bring all his family to America providing them with new life and possibilities.

This activity required close cooperation, solidarity and unity within Chinese immigrant society, as the complete strangers should have had provided the relative-like evidence for the newcomers they saw the first time in their life. As the scheme functioned successfully, it brought new complications and the problems for American authorities dealing with immigration issues, by making the procedure of Chinese people registration more complex and extended.

The “paper sons” system, invented by Chinese immigrants was the only response to the violation of their rights guaranteed by the American Constitution. Moreover, the fact that the violation was performed by American authorities does not make this act legal in any case.

Works Cited

Hsu, Madeline. “Gold Mountain Dreams and Paper Son Schemes: Chinese Immigration Under exclusion.” Chinese America: History and Perspectives 11 (1997): 46-61. Print.

Joo, Thomas Wuil. “New Conspiracy Theory of the Fourteenth Amendment: Nineteenth Century Chinese Civil Rights Cases and the Development of Substantive Due Process Jurisprudence.” USFL Rev. 29 (1994): 353. Print.

Kanazawa, Mark. “Immigration, Exclusion, and Taxation: Anti-Chinese Legislation in Gold Rush California.” The Journal of Economic History 65.03 (2005): 779-805. Print.

Lai, Him Mark. “Unfinished Business: The Chinese Confession Program.” The Repeal and Its Legacy: Proceedings of the Conference on the 50th Anniversary of the Repeal of the Exclusion Acts, 1993. Print.

Lau, Estelle T. Paper Families: Identity, Immigration Administration, and Chinese Exclusion. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. Print.

Portes, Alejandro, and Ruben G. Rumbaut. Immigrant America: a Portrait. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2006. Print.

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