The entire overseas Chinese community, centered in San Francisco, recently celebrated the 125th anniversary of the important birthright legal case won by Chinese-American Wong Kim Ark in the United States Supreme Court, which established a landmark case that all individuals born in the United States are U.S. citizens. This case has also become a model for Chinese Americans to unite and fight against anti-Chinese sentiment and to strive for legal immigration rights.
Wong Kim Ark, born in 1871 in San Francisco to Chinese parents, was denied entry into the United States upon returning from a trip abroad, under the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. He sued the government over this issue. On March 28, 1898, the United States Supreme Court ruled in his favor, determining that every person born in the United States is a citizen according to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. This awakened Chinese Americans to pursue and defend their legitimate rights and interests, affecting the rights of all future immigrants in the United States.
The Wong Kim Ark case also highlights the importance of the Chinese-American community. At a time when mainstream society was overwhelmingly xenophobic, Chinese people had almost no resources to fight for their legal rights and were marginalized under layers of social pressure. When Wong Kim Ark was denied entry into the US and was detained for five months after returning from mainland China, he was able to obtain bail and file a lawsuit with the help of lawyers from the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in San Francisco. This lawsuit went from a local court to the United States Supreme Court, where it was ultimately won. This demonstrated that the Chinese community at the time was still able to raise valuable resources even in the face of adversity, as the saying goes, "the righteousness shall be with vast support.”
The deeds left by Wong Kim Ark and other predecessors show that even in the darkest hours of exclusion, when the mainstream society generally denied the basic human rights of Chinese people, there were still Chinese people who stood up for justice, not only for themselves, but also for everyone who suffered from unfair treatment. The result of this struggle has changed the fate of many people's lives, and this is also the right that everyone is entitled to on this land of the United States.The deeds left by Wong Kim Ark and other predecessors show that even in the darkest hours of exclusion, when the mainstream society generally denied the basic human rights of Chinese people, there were still Chinese people who stood up for justice, not only for themselves, but also for everyone who suffered from unfair treatment. The result of this struggle has changed the fate of many people's lives, and this is also the right that everyone is entitled to on this land of the United States.
Although the ruling in the Wong Kim Ark case provided certainty and protection for millions of children of all races born in the United States to obtain citizenship by birth, it is unfortunate that few students in the US education system are taught or learn about this past. This is why revisiting this history and acknowledging its importance is so important.
In fact, after winning the lawsuit, Wong Kim Ark's personal rights issues were not completely resolved. When he moved to Texas, he was once again suspected of being a citizen by immigration officials in El Paso and was imprisoned. It took nearly four months for the immigration officials to prove that Wong Kim Ark was a citizen who had the right to stay in the US. If there is any enlightenment from the case of Wong Kim Ark, this epilogue shows that civil rights cannot be solved by just one case.
"One person, one history; one story, one kind of bitterness." This is the sigh of scholars studying the Wong Kim Ark case more than a century later about the difficult process of Chinese immigration. Although Chinese immigrants faced the bitterness of the Chinese Exclusion Act in their early years, their footsteps did not stop in their quest for justice and they have continued to fight for important precedents for immigrants. This historical fact also tells future generations that the struggle for and defense of the rights of minorities is a long-run, regardless of time, place, or ethnicity.
This article is reproduced from Sing Tao Daily.