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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 66/December 1904/Chinese and Japanese Immigration

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 66‎ | December 1904



ABOUT twenty years ago the tide of Chinese coolie laborers assumed such proportions that the Chinese exclusion act was enacted to protect the Pacific states from the horde of yellow parasites which threatened their prosperity. The radical step of legislating against a race was taken after due deliberation, and recognition of its urgent necessity. The Chinese exclusion act has worked fairly well, and in 1901 was reenacted. It is not perfect, and evasions have been frequent, as might be expected in a people fertile in resource and schooled in trickery and deceit, as are the Mongolians, but on the whole the object aimed at has been attained. It has kept out the mass of yellow coolies who would otherwise have come here, and has practically confined the question of Chinese coolie labor to the Pacific coast, whereas, without it, we should have had the coolie labor in Illinois, Pennsylvania and every other state in the Union.

One of the many methods employed by Chinese in evading the exclusion law is of particular interest because of its bearing on illegal naturalization of aliens. Naturalization of Chinese is often an incident of a successful attempt to evade the Chinese exclusion law. A Chinaman arrested in crossing the Canadian border will claim he is a native of the United States and is able to produce Chinese witnesses who will swear to his nativity. He is not only admitted, but is admitted as an American citizen—and his children born in China will also be entitled to admission to the United States and undoubtedly in time will also claim citizenship. An officer detailed to examine the conditions existing upon the Canadian border, in his report to Hon. F. P. Sargent, Commissioner-General of Immigration, makes the following statement, published in the 'Commissioner-General's Report' for 1903:

Hon. F. P. Sargent,

Commissioner-General of Immigration, Washington, D. C.

Sir: . . . To acquaint myself with all that might bear on the subject, I called at the Chinese bureaus at New York and Boston, conversed with the Chinese inspectors and interpreters, attended the trial of cases at Ogdensburg, interviewed the Chinese themselves at different points in their own language, read whatever notices I saw in Chinese, called at their stores, schools, restaurants and laundries, and at every opportunity gathered what information I could on the subject. I found that in this section of the country Chinese gain admission into the United States by smuggling, by applying openly through the regular channels as members of the exempt classes, or by surrendering themselves a short distance from the border for arrest and trial, as a rule, under the guise of being natives of the United States. As to the first-mentioned class, the number is being reduced, owing to the constant vigilance of our officers on both sides of the border. As to the second class, the inspector in charge of the Brooklyn district, as well as the one in charge of the Boston district, I found to be good, efficient officers, and cases are submitted to a thorough investigation. It is the third class—that of the so-called 'natives'—that calls especially for correction. There are several points near the Canadian border, such as Malone, Ogdensburg, Plattsburg and Rouse Point, where Chinese of the class last mentioned are taken for trial. This class comprises Chinese who have come from China and have camped at Montreal, until such time as the members of the ring engaged in working up their defense could secure witnesses to testify to their alleged nativity.

I attended the trial of several such Chinese, on whose behalf the claim of being natives of the United States was made, which, I was creditably informed, fairly illustrated the usual method of trying this kind of cases. At the time set the case of Ah Sing or some other Ah would be called, and with the defendant absent from court throughout the whole session one other Chinese would be put upon the stand to testify to the defendant's having been born in the United States—most likely in the Chinatown of San Francisco, the alleged birthplace of tens of thousands of others that have made the claim at various times and at various places before him. Upon the uncorroborated testimony of this one Chinaman the other Chinaman, awaiting the issue in jail, would be declared a native of the United States. This goes on week after week and month after month, and has been going on for years. One of the Federal judges estimated that if the story told in the courts were true, every Chinese woman who was in the United States twenty-five years ago must have had at least 500 children. (Report of Proceedings of Chinese-Exclusion Convention, held at San Francisco, November 21 and 22, 1901, p. 51.) By this method thousands of Chinese—upon the admission of the Chinese themselves—have been allowed not only to enter and remain in the United States, but declared to be native-born citizens thereof, each with a vote and qualified to participate in the political affairs of this country.

How far-reaching the effect of such a method is can be appreciated only when it is borne in mind that not only the Chinese who may be thus admitted are made citizens, but also their alleged children, though born in China.

That Japanese are naturalized illegally is shown by the report of special examiner C. V. C. Van Deusen, published in the 'Report of the Attorney General of the U. S.,' 1903. Mr. Van Deusen says:

Notwithstanding the fact that the Federal statutes exclude from the rights of citizenship all persons except free white persons and those of African nativity and descent, courts have admitted to citizenship persons not belonging to either of those two races. This is particularly true of courts on the Pacific coast, which have naturalized many natives of Japan, and the clerks of which still continue to accept from such persons declarations of intention to become citizens. As several of these clerks have admitted to me the fact that they know that the naturalization laws exclude Japanese, their demand for an acceptance from these people of the naturalization fees brings them dangerously close to the penal provisions of statutes bearing upon unlawful practises.

The Japanese has never been placed under the ban to which his Mongol brother, the Chinese, is subjected, because not until recently did Japanese immigration reach proportions of alarming size. The rapid increase of Japanese immigration is shown by the table given below.

Years. Japanese Arrived.
1898 2,230
1899 2,844
1900 12,635
1901 5,269
1902 14,270
1903 19,968

The Japanese coolie labor is (according to some observers who have made a special study of them) more undesirable than the Chinese. There are thousands of these Japanese working in the orchards, vineyards, gardens, hop and sugar-beet fields of California.

The investigations of the California State Labor Bureau show that the Japanese usually come here in gangs of twenty-five or more, and are controlled by Japanese boarding-house keepers in San Francisco, Seattle and other Pacific ports, the system resembling the 'pa drone system' of the Italians. These Japanese boarding-house keepers or bosses are in touch with so-called 'Immigration companies' in Japan. Mr. Thos. F. Turner, in his able report upon Chinese and Japanese labor in the mountain and Pacific states, prepared for the Industrial Commission, and presented by it to Congress, December 5, 1901, says:

A contract is entered into by one of these immigration companies with every Japanese immigrant coming to the United States By the terms of the contract it is provided that the immigration company shall secure passage for the immigrant to the United States, with necessary passport, and that it shall provide for all his creature comforts while en route, and return him to Japan in case of sickness. Fully SO per cent, of all the Japanese who come to the United States are classified, as shown by the reports of the immigration office, as farmers. The wages of farm hands in Japan are 3 to 4 yen per month, or about $1.50 American money, without board or lodging; yet every one of this class of immigrants, after paying passage to the United States, is able to show to the immigration officer $30 in gold. It is understood by the immigrants that they must have at least this amount in order to secure landing in the United States.

It is a fact full of significance that of the hundreds of coolies who are constantly coming into the United States every one produces just $30 in gold; no more, and no less.

That the entire system of immigration companies, boarding-house keepers and Japanese bosses is but an elaborate and ingenious method of avoiding our contract labor laws, no one who has investigated the subject can doubt.

The following is an exact translation of one of the immigrant contracts referred to:



The Nippon Imin Goshi Company will contract, accepting the request for transportation, of Yoshida Ichitaro, who is a free emigrant, having the purpose to land in San Francisco, North America, and to secure for him work there, within the limitations prescribed by the immigration laws.

1. The emigrant shall perform everything that is needed for getting the passport and must be responsible for all expenses needed for the voyage, and should have the money which is necessary when landing.

2. The maturity of the contract is three years from the date that the emigrant starts.

3. If the emigrant gets sick, or loses the means to get along, Narita Toyashira, agent, will help him and provide him means to get back to Japan in case it is necessary.

4. If the emigrant is sent back at the expense of the Japanese government the company shall pay all the expenses for the emigrant.

5. The emigrant shall pay 10 yen to the company as its fee. If the emigrant has a child who does not exceed the age of 15 years, the charge for it will be half price, and if the child is not exceeding 10 years of age, he will be carried free of charge.

6. The emigrant shall provide two securities to the company according to acts 3 and 4 thereof, and they will be responsible to pay all of the expenses that have been paid by the company under the provisions of sections 3 and 4.

7. The two securities are responsible in all the matters pertaining to the emigrant.

This contract is made in duplicate, one to the emigrant and one to the company.
Meiji, 31st year (1898), 1st month (January), 31st day.
Hamanaka Hachitaro,
Special Manager Japan United Immigration Company.
Yoshida Ichitaro,
Yoshida Yohei.
Yamamoto Kusu.

There is every ground for the belief that the $30 which is exhibited by the immigrant to the United States officials is furnished by the immigration company. The whole scheme is a flagrant violation of our contract labor laws. The class of Japanese immigrants who are thus enabled to come to the United Slates are of the most objectionable character, and without the assistance of such organizations would be compelled to remain in Japan. The United States Government should take immediate steps to suppress these immigration companies.

The great danger to the laboring interests of the United States of unrestricted Japanese immigration will be better understood after an examination of the following table showing the prevailing rate of wages paid in Japan in the various lines of industry:

Japanese Wage Rates Per Day.

[1]Yen. United states
Carpenters 0.55 $0.26
Plasterers .55 .26
Stonecutters .65 .31
Paper-hangers .50 .24
Joiners .60 .19
Tailors for Japanese clothing .50 .24
Tailors for foreign clothing 1.00 .48
Blacksmiths .75 .36
Printers .40 .19
Ship carpenters .60 .29
Compositors .60 .29
Common laborers .40 .19
Confectioners .35 .17
Farm laborers, per month 3.00 1.44
It is little wonder that these strange foreigners, when they come to the United States, are willing to work for 60 and 70 cents a day, which is more than double the wages for which they were compelled to work in Japan. As a result of this unnatural competition the white laborer has been driven from the field wherever the coolie system has found a foothold.

The Japanese adopts our dress and manners, but his Americanization never extends beyond external appearances. The yellow and the white races are as immiscible as oil and water. No forces of education or civilization can make aught but an Asiatic out of a Chinese or a Japanese. There can be no assimilation, nor do they desire it. They simply intend to hoard a certain amount of American gold and go back to Japan or China to pass the remainder of their lives in comparative ease. While here, their one idea is the hoarding of money; to earn as much and deny themselves as much as is compatible with human endurance. They have no interest in our government, in our laws or in us, other than that which concerns the attainment of their object.

Aside from the economic aspects of Japanese immigration, there is one other objectionable feature of this second yellow invasion which is worthy of note. They bring more cases absolutely and relatively of contagious disease than any other nationality coming here. During 1903, one Japanese out of every 37 arrived was deported as afflicted with a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease. The coming of the Japanese merchant, professional man or student should be permitted, just as we now permit the same class of Chinese to enter freely, but the coolie laborer, whether Japanese or Chinese, is an unfair competitor for our white laborer, and with his high percentage of disease is an element of danger to the public health.

  1. A yen is valued at 48 cents.