Certificates of Identity

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

“Issued in conformity with the Chinese rules of the Immigration and Naturalization Service,” the three documents established that my father and his two brothers entered the U.S. legally in 1935 and 1938.  They had been born in the United States. The Chinese Exclusion Laws, then in effect, could not prevent them from entering the U.S. after they had traveled to China with their mother several years earlier. My grandmother had been raising them in San Francisco and, after her husband had disappeared, she thought their lives would improve in China where relatives could help in the village near Guangzhou where she was raised.  But, she regretted the decision and began the struggle to scrape together money to reestablish the family in the U.S., first with the eldest two sons (who could find work) and then with each child after saving enough for their transportation.  Missing from the documents is a fourth one for a daughter, Lola, who had died in China before her mother could send for her.  One uncle thought her sister was killed by the fighting during the Japanese invasion.  The third brother who was the last to see her before leaving China believed she died from a “broken heart” for having been passed over when it was her turn to return the U.S.  My father recalls that all his mother received was a telegram that Lola had died, and nothing more. 

Place(s): Guangzhou, China, San Francisco

– Ted Gong, 1882 Foundation

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant