William Wong: Trump’s Immigration Policy Would Have Kept Out My Father

Pictured above: The author William Gee Wong (standing) with his father, mother and nephew in a booth at their Oakland Chinatown restaurant in the late 1940s. Photo courtesy of William Gee Wong collection.

William Wong of New American Media recently wrote about his father’s experiences as a Chinese immigrant in 1912, the 30th year of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Wong states that his father somehow was able to get in legally even though he didn’t tell the whole truth. This fact makes Wong and his family grateful that their father was able to skirt the dreaded, racist Exclusion Act, and that he didn’t try to come here under the Trump Administration’s immigration proposal.

Many used the infamous “paper son” scheme. This was making false birthright claims made possible, in part, by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire that destroyed official records. Without records, the government could not legally counter the birthright claims of immigrants like Pop, who said he was a “son of a native,” a category exempt from the exclusion law.

Pop and other Chinese immigrants wanted desperately to come here, largely to escape the utter political, economic, and social turmoil of China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the republican revolution, civil wars, and in the 1930s, the Japanese invasion.

Here in America, because of yellow Jim Crow laws, they were forced to create parallel universes in the many Chinatowns in cities and towns, first in California and the west and eventually throughout America.

Ironically, those enclaves – ostracized, ignored, and targeted for violence as they sometimes were – nurtured self-reliance and survival skills that enabled Pop and his cohort to begin stable and useful lives for their descendants.

Their numbers were teeny. In 1880, just before Congress passed the exclusion law, Chinese were 0.0021 percent of the U.S. population. In 1940, just before its repeal, they were a barely measurable 0.0005 percent.

Supporters of the Trump immigration proposal deny its intent is racist against non-white people, but its effects, if ever enacted, could very well be. Why do the president and the Republican senators pushing this bill want to go backwards to a time when America was much whiter than it is today and going to be in the foreseeable future?

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