The Chinese Experience in 19th Century America

19th Century American Ideas About Other Peoples

Chinese Exclusion: The Process

Exclusion: Chinese Perspectives



Getting Past the Gate: Paper Sons and Daughters

The primary sources in this activity deal with the phenomenon of “paper sons and daughters,” a scheme that allowed thousands of Chinese immigrants to gain entrance to the United States despite the Exclusion Act.

Have the students read the background information relating to the phenomenon of “paper sons,” or use the information as the basis of a brief lecture. Students should then read the immigration inspector’s statement. With a partner, students can role play the “Interrogation of a Young Chinese” and then complete the suggested written assignment.

For a woman’s immigration experience, see Judy Yung, Unbound Voices.

To conclude the activity, consider the following questions in a class discussion:

  • What do you think of this practice of falsely claiming to be a “son” or “daughter” in order to be able to enter the United States? Was it justifiable?

  • If the Chinese had been allowed to enter the country as Chinese immigrants, do you think so many would have taken such pains to claim that they were really U.S. citizens?

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