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12AD.1.5 Departure Statement of Wong Kim Ark

This paper certified that Wong Kim Ark was able to follow through with his plan to leave the United States and return. Three men signed this letter attesting to his identity.
US District Court for the Southern Division of the Northern District of California
1894
Document
National Archives

US District Court for the Southern Division of the Northern District of California. Departure Statement of Wong Kim Ark, 1894. National Archives. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/2641490

In 1894 Wong Kim Ark, a San Francisco–born American citizen of Chinese descent, planned to travel to China for a short amount of time. The US District Court provided him with this document so that upon his return from China he would be able to re-enter his homeland. In 1894 American birthright citizenship had been in place for nearly 30 years, but the Chinese Exclusion Act (which forbade most Chinese immigrants from entering the United States starting in 1884) was also established law. Chinese Americans such as Wong Kim Ark had the protection of birthright citizenship, but they also experienced the nativism that went along with the Chinese Exclusion Act. What information does this document provide about how the government viewed Ark? What did the government want for Ark? Why do you think the government would issue this document? How does this document serve as evidence of an increasing role that the government sought to play in exerting power over its citizens and noncitizens? Do you think the Federalist Papers or earlier founding documents would have supported or opposed this role for the government? Why or why not?

This document is evidence of new roles that the government took on in the nineteenth century. When the Fourteenth Amendment established birthright citizenship and authorized the federal government to oversee full inclusion in society, the amendment opened up dramatically new roles for the federal government. In 1894 Wong Kim Ark, a San Francisco–born American citizen of Chinese descent, planned to travel to China for a short amount of time. The US District Court provided him with this document so that upon his return from China he would be able to re-enter his homeland. In 1894, American birthright citizenship had been in place for nearly twenty years, but the Chinese Exclusion Act was also established law. Chinese-Americans like Wong Kim Ark had the protection of birthright citizenship, but he also experienced the nativism that went along with the Chinese Exclusion Act. Ask your students the following questions to determine the significance of this document in relationship to the government's power over people: What information does this document provide about how the government viewed Ark? What did the government want for Ark? Why do you think the government would issue this document? How does this document serve as evidence of an increasing role that the government sought to play in exerting power over its citizens? Do you think the Federalist Papers or earlier founding documents would have supported or opposed this role for the government? Why or why not?

Whereas Wong Kim Ark, whose photograph is hereto attached, is about to depart for China, intending to return to the United States, and is entitled to return thereto.
Now therefore for the better identification of the said Wong Kim Ark, and in order to facilitating his landing upon his said return —
We the undersigned do hereby certify that the said Wong Kim Ark is well known to us. That he was born in the city and county of San Francisco. That his father Young Pi Sing is a merchant and a member of the firm Quong Sing & Co No 751, Sacramento Street in said City and County of San Francisco, State of California.
Dated and Signed this 2nd day of November, 1894.
Signature Occupation

Wm Fisher 1308 Powell St.
J. Benna 615 Gough
Lt. Selenger 932 Powell St.