United States v. Wong Kim Ark
169 U.S. 649 (1898)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898)

United States v. Wong Kim Ark

No. 18

Argued March 5, 8, 1897

Decided March 28, 1898

169 U.S. 649

Syllabus

A child born in the United States, of parents of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States, by virtue of the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution,

"All person born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

This was a writ of habeas corpus issued October 2, 1895, by the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of California to the collector of customs at the port of San Francisco, in behalf of Wong Kim Ark, who alleged that he was a citizen of the United States, of more than twenty-one years of age, and was born at San Francisco in 1873 of parents of Chinese descent and subjects of the Emperor of China, but domiciled residents at San Francisco, and that, on his return to the United States on the steamship Coptic in August, 1895, from a temporary visit to China, he applied to said collector of customs for permission to land, and was by the collector refused such permission, and was restrained of his liberty by the collector, and by the general manager of the steamship company acting under his direction, in violation of the Constitution and laws of the United States, not by virtue of any judicial order or proceeding, but solely upon the pretence that he was not a citizen of the United States.

At the hearing, the District Attorney of the United States was permitted to intervene in behalf of the United States in opposition to the writ, and stated the grounds of his intervention in writing as follows:

"That, as he is informed and believes, the said person in

Page 169 U. S. 650

whose behalf said application was made is not entitled to land in the United States, or to be or remain therein, as is alleged in said application, or otherwise."

"Because the said Wong Kim Ark, although born in the city and county of San Francisco, State of California, United States of America, is not, under the laws of the State of California and of the United States, a citizen thereof, the mother and father of the said Wong Kim Ark being Chinese persons and subjects of the Emperor of China, and the said Wong Kim Ark being also a Chinese person and a subject of the Emperor of China."

"Because the said Wong Kim Ark has been at all times, by reason of his race, language, color and dress, a Chinese person, and now is, and for some time last past has been, a laborer by occupation."

"That the said Wong Kim Ark is not entitled to land in the United States, or to be or remain therein, because he does not belong to any of the privileged classes enumerated in any of the acts of Congress, known as the Chinese Exclusion Acts, * which would exempt him from the class or classes which are especially excluded from the United States by the provisions of the said acts."

"Wherefore the said United States Attorney asks that a judgment and order of this honorable court be made and entered in accordance with the allegations herein contained, and that the said Wong Kim Ark be detained on board of said vessel until released as provided by law, or otherwise to be returned to the country from whence he came, and that such further order be made as to the court may seem proper and legal in the premises."

The case was submitted to the decision of the court upon the following facts agreed by the parties:

"That the said Wong Kim Ark was born in the year 1873, at No. 751 Sacramento Street, in the city and county of San Francisco, State of California, United States of America, and

Page 169 U. S. 651

that his mother and father were persons of Chinese descent and subjects of the Emperor of China, and that said Wong Kim Ark was and is a laborer."

"That, at the time of his said birth, his mother and father were domiciled residents of the United States, and had established and enjoyed a permanent domicil and residence therein at said city and county of San Francisco, State aforesaid."

"That said mother and father of said Wong Kim Ark continued to reside and remain in the United States until the year 1890, when they departed for China."

"That during all the time of their said residence in the United States as domiciled residents therein, the said mother and father of said Wong Kim Ark were engaged in the prosecution of business, and were never engaged in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China."

"That ever since the birth of said Wong Kim Ark, at the time and place hereinbefore stated and stipulated, he has had but one residence, to-wit, a residence in said State of California, in the United States of America, and that he has never changed or lost said residence or gained or acquired another residence, and there resided claiming to be a citizen of the United States."

"That, in the year 1890 the said Wong Kim Ark departed for China upon a temporary visit and with the intention of returning to the United States, and did return thereto on July 26, 1890, on the steamship Gaelic, and was permitted to enter the United States by the collector of customs upon the sole ground that he was a native-born citizen of the United States."

"That after his said return, the said Wong Kim Ark remained in the United States, claiming to be a citizen thereof, until the year 1894, when he again departed for China upon a temporary visit, and with the intention of returning to the United States, and did return thereto in the month of August, 1895, and applied to the collector of customs to be permitted to land, and that such application was denied upon the sole ground that said Wong in Ark was not a citizen of the United States. "

Page 169 U. S. 652

"That said Wong Kim Ark has not, either by himself or his parents acting for him, ever renounced his allegiance to the United States, and that he has never done or committed any act or thing to exclude him therefrom."

The court ordered Wong Kim Ark to be discharged, upon the ground that he was a citizen of the United States. 1 Fed.Rep. 382. The United States appealed to this court, and the appellee was admitted to bail pending the appeal.

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