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posted by [personal profile] lilibeth at 04:39pm on 11/02/2009
... an interesting question comes across my desk. 

Today an 84 year old Chinese gentleman came in, with a translator.  He arrived in the US in 1937, when he was 12, and was issued a document from the Dept of Labor that lists him as the son of a US citizen.  This is the only identification he's ever had, and now he's wanting to go back to China for a visit, but neither China nor the US will say if he's a citizen.

It looked to me like the law at the time didn't make the children of Chinese US citizens automatically citizens by birth, that the status had to be applied for through the Dept of Labor, but I couldn't tell from the document he had if that was a document accepting the status or just a listing of what his father reported.  In addition, the document he had was water damaged, so you couldn't read the ID number associated with it (and the Dept of Labor had told him they didn't have a way to look it up).

Stumped with what to do next, I suggested they might try contacting organizations in San Francisco that would know more about Chinese immigration policies, documentation and solutions. 

There are 8 comments on this entry. (Reply.)
posted by [identity profile] at 10:20pm on 11/02/2009
I got to look for tax forms this morning.
posted by [identity profile] at 11:14pm on 11/02/2009
Er. I'm sure someone will ask me that question, too. And a professor will try to donate a bunch of casebooks s/he rec'd for free from West to the library and will ask if s/he can deduct it as a charitable deduction.
posted by [identity profile] at 10:25pm on 11/02/2009
Oh! That's a great question and would make a super interesting story. The whole thing from start to finish, about citizenship and belonging....I bet we could write a screenplay and get Tom Hanks to act in it!

Or, you know, I was up at 2:00 AM with the baby and I'm a little loopy.
posted by [identity profile] at 11:11pm on 11/02/2009
Tom Hanks would be perfect if his acting didn't make my skin crawl!

I hope Noah sleeps like a champ tonight!
posted by [identity profile] at 12:00am on 12/02/2009
I have a chart at my office that would probably answer that question. I love that sort of case-makes the law interesting?

(was his mother also a USC? Were they married? Was the father a USC when the man was born?)
posted by [identity profile] at 11:30am on 12/02/2009
I love it even more when these questions come from left field, not students or professors looking for the oddball thing (so they can write a paper)!

The answer to both your questions, I believe, is no. Father came to the US as a laborer to work on building the railroad and somehow became a citizen despite the exclusionary laws. Mom stayed in China.

I suspect the son was never declared a citizen - that they just never knew to jump through the hoops. And now he wants to travel back to China one last time, and can't because he's not recognized by either country.

It would be great if you have ideas; my only idea is to tell them to start petitioning for a private law to have him declared a citizen after all these years.

(Congratulations about Colorado! I hope you can make it your last move, and that you land right where you and your family want to be!)
posted by [identity profile] at 12:38pm on 12/02/2009
Well, if there was a way, he would need to file an N-600 with USCIS. I used to adjudicate those petitions when I worked there so I'm fairly familiar with them.

I can't find my nifty chart here at work - it's a very hard issue to research because you have to use the law in place at the time of birth and those laws aren't usually in the books anymore. (Maybe not hard for a legal librarian, but always super frustrating for me.)

Anyway, I will go home and double check but I suspect that either both parents had to be USCs before the guy was 18 or some variation on that (like if his mom died or the parents were divorced or something). If the guy is 84, that means he was born around 1925, right?

My immigration law professor was a stateless person for a while. His parents were of Japanese descent but were US citizens. He was born in Japan but somehow, because his parents weren't citizens, he was not one either. He came here when he was very young and was stateless until he was maybe 3 or 4.
posted by (anonymous) at 01:31pm on 12/02/2009
Nope, still hard for a law librarian to research 1925 (he may have said he was born in 1924) laws considering the Federal Register didn't come into being until 1936.


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