Chinese Exclusion

Chinese boys dormitory, MOHAI Collection
Chinese boys dormitory, MOHAI Collection

Hing Chinn was a citizen son who came to Seattle as a nine-year-old boy in 1939. When the boys arrived, immigration officials would interrogate father and son separately to make sure they were truly related. Boys had coaching books that they used to memorize details about their lives. Some boys prepared for more than a year.  “Before I came over, I got to remember all those questions and answers. You even got a booklet that you got to memorize… They question you to make sure that you are the real McCoy. If they question your father, and you don’t answer correctly, they are going to send you back… Even your home, ‘How many windows you got?’ and so forth. I ask you – how many windows in your house, you know? You don’t know. But I know because I memorize it (laughter)... At that time, even your wife can’t come over… If you’re a citizen, your wife can’t come over. That’s why my dad went back and forth sometimes… [My mother] came after the war, when the law changed.  Every time you come over to the United States, you have to stay at the Immigration Station… I don’t have any bad memories staying there... I don’t think anybody regret staying there, no. I mean, you just want to get out. That’s all. Without getting sent back, that’s the key. You heard all the horror stories of people staying there and getting sent back to China, stay there a few years, few months… I hear it all the time.” – Hing Chinn 

Place(s): Seattle
Year: 1939

– Voices of the Immigration Station, Wing Luke Museum

Relationship:  Im/migrant who arrived as a child Im/migrant who arrived as a child