USCIS Webinar, Thursday, 24 May 2018, 1 p.m. (Eastern): Interpreting Odd INS Naturalization Index Cards: The Case of “Gladys H”

“Interpreting Odd INS Naturalization Index Cards: The Case of “Gladys H” — Thursday, May 24, 1:00 PM Eastern

If you’ve ever searched online for mid-20th century naturalization records, you may have encountered unusual or hard-to-understand index cards. This webinar by a USCIS historian, will discuss examples of these cards, then present a real-life case study of the variety of numbers in Gladys H.’s complicated road to naturalization.

To attend the webinar (which will not be recorded), go to USCIS History and Genealogy Webinars, choose the May 24 session, and hit the “attend session” button. If you have not attended one of these webinars previously, hit the “attend session” button 10 or 15 minutes in advance, in case you need to download the appropriate software.

Review of USCIS Webinar: “‘Any alien’ serving in the military or naval forces of the United States? Asian immigrant soldiers and naturalization during the First World War”

On 25 April 2018, USCIS historian Zack Wilske gave an excellent presentation about the laws affecting naturalization of Asian alien soldiers and sailors during World War I. Without reproducing his webinar, which was not recorded, let me share a few highlights.

The Naturalization Act of 9 May 1918 provided expedited naturalization for “any alien serving in the military or naval service of the United States during the time this country is engaged in the present war.” The serviceman needed proof of enlisted status or honorable discharge and  supporting testimony of two witnesses.

This Act exempted service members from five requirements: (1) five years of U.S. residency; (2) filing a declaration of intention; (3) ability to speak English; (4) the need to demonstrate knowledge of American history and institutions; and (5) the need to file in a court with jurisdiction over his residence.

The question soon arose whether Chinese, Japanese, and Hindoo [sic] servicemen could be naturalized under this law. Did Congress mean “any alien”  or was the 1918 act was to be read in harmony with prior statutes and case law that held that held that most Asian natives were not “free white persons” eligible to naturalize. (In 1870, Congress extended the right to naturalize to “persons of African nativity, or African descent.” Filipinos were also permitted to naturalize.)

There was disagreement within the Bureau of Naturalization, and between different Federal judges. Judge Horace W. Vaughan of the U.S. District Court of Hawaii construed “any alien” literally to include Asian servicemen, and began naturalizing them, as did some other judges. Ultimately the Bureau decided that Asians were not eligible, and selected the naturalization of Hidemitsu Toyota, who was naturalized in Boston, Massachusetts, on 26 May 1921, as a test case to take all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided on 25 May 1925, that Asians were not included in the “any alien” language of the Act of 9 May 1918.

The Supreme Court decision made the naturalization status of those Asians murky at best and, condensing a lot of history here, eventually the Act of Congress of 24 June 1935 cleaned things up by (1) allowing Asian veterans of World War I to naturalize; (2) allowing Asians naturalized during the war to have their naturalization certificates validated; (3) allowing new certificates to be issued to those who lost them. These provisions expired 1 January 1937.

At least 700 Asian soldiers or veterans naturalized during or after World War I. Many of them were interned by the U.S. government during World War II. Racial bars on naturalization did not end until 1952.

Review of “Married at Ellis Island….”

If you missed last Tuesday’s USCIS History Office webinar, “Married at Ellis Island…., 1892-1924,” you missed a good one. I won’t review all the details, but here are a few tidbits: It’s estimated that perhaps 300 women a year “married at Ellis Island” to their intended spouse in lieu of deportation on the grounds of “likely to become a public charge” or risk of falling into prostitution. The “Record of Detained Aliens” (title may vary) that follows the regular passenger lists for a given vessel (on microfilm or online) may have the notation “married” or similar words as a part of the information for the detained woman. The marriage record will be found in the New York City marriage records for that period which are online on Ancestry.com. A marriage on the alien woman’s date of arrival or during the day(s) she was detained is a good clue that the marriage happened “at Ellis Island” and was a requirement for her admission to the United States.

The Law and Reasonably Exhaustive (Re)Search

You won’t want to miss the webinar by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, entitled “The Law and the Reasonably Exhaustive (Re)Search” which was presented this evening (19 December 2017) and is available for free viewing for the next week. As Judy shows with very persuasive examples, you cannot possibly understand the contents of a record unless you understand the law that caused the record to be created.

Many of my own articles on federal records take that approach–with varying degrees of specificity–depending on the nature and purpose of the article.

Often, the reason the record was created is often as interesting–and sometimes just as informative–as the record itself.

Context is everything. History and the law provide that context.

 

Chinese Exclusion Act Files and Records Overview – USCIS webinar, Thursday, Nov. 30, at 1 p.m. Eastern

Chinese Exclusion Act Files and Records Overview

Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, 1 p.m. Eastern

Join Marian Smith for an overview of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Chinese Exclusion Act records and where those records can be found today.  The presentation will use a timeline to discuss a variety of Chinese Exclusion Act records inherited or created by INS.  These records are today found at regional archives, the National Archives in Washington, DC, and occasionally in files held by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services  (USCIS).  The webinar will address the agency’s historical practice of moving some files to other file series as well as USCIS resources available to those doing Chinese Exclusion-era immigrant research.

*This webinar will not be recorded, so be sure to join it live.*

 How to Attend

1.  Visit the USCIS History and Genealogy web page.

2.  Click “Worth Repeating Webinar: Thursday, November 30.”

3.  Click “Attend Session” just before the webinar start time at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Chinese Laws and Rules

Researchers using historical Chinese Exclusion records often find themselves trying to navigate through a maze of legal citations and references to the multitude of laws, rules, and regulations that governed the admission and exclusion of Chinese immigrants. For example, what was a “Section 6 Certificate?” Or, what did it mean if someone was admitted as part of the “exempt class under Rule 9?”

Fortunately, the USCIS History Office and Library’s online catalog provides full-text access to tools that can help researchers interpret Chinese Exclusion files. Two of the most important are the Chinese Laws and Rules (1899–1936) and the Chinese General Orders (1924–1945).

The Chinese laws and rules, which the Immigration Service distributed to officers responsible for enforcing Chinese Exclusion law, initially included a list of laws governing the admission of Chinese and a compilation of major court decisions interpreting those laws. As Congress amended the laws or added new ones, the Immigration Service issued new volumes of the publication. In 1908, the Immigration Service added a list of regulations (rules) to the publication, which detailed how the agency carried out the law. The rules described the inspections process, various certificates and forms required under the law, and several other aspects of Chinese Exclusion enforcement. Today, the laws and rules help us interpret legal citations found in Chinese Exclusion files and provide a fuller picture of how Chinese Exclusion law was carried out.

In 1924, the Immigration Service supplemented the Chinese laws and rules with the Chinese general orders. The general orders announced changes to the Chinese rules and were later added to the next printed addition of the laws and rules. Today they are helpful for pinpointing changes in the rules.

To find both the Chinese laws and rules and the Chinese general orders in the USCIS History Office and Library’s online catalog, simply click the links above or select “Simple Search” from the “Search” drop-down menu and type “Chinese rules.” They will come up as the first two search results.