Cornelius Van Vorst, ca.1620; 
Jersey City Free Public Library; Grover Cleveland Political Cartoon; 
Grover Cleveland Birthplace Historical Site Collection Peter Lee, former slave, ca.1880; 
Hoboken Historical Photographs Collection; Farm Map of Hillsboro, Somerset County, 1860; 
Historical Maps of New Jersey Collection; Bathing Beauties, 1890-1930; 
American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark Collection; Flag Salute, 1950; 
Seabrook Farms Collection;
William Wu Fong
Curator(s): Kelly, Samantha; Macphee, Chris; Park, Jenifer; Urban, Andy
William Wu Fong claimed to be born in the United States. However, there was a lack of documentation to verify that this was the case. Due to the Chinese Exclusion laws that allowed only merchants and students to enter the United States, it was important that Fong had all of his documents in order before leaving the United States. Fong intended to visit China to see his family and to get married. In order to make his re-entry into the United States easier, Fong filled out a Form 430. The purpose of this form was to establish Fong’s American citizenship and to allow for a quick re-entry without an additional investigation.

When Fong filled out the Form 430, the only piece of documentation that he had was his discharge papers from the United States Army. However, on his military discharge papers there was no proof of his birth in the United States. During several interviews with immigration officers, Fong was unable to answer all of the questions posed to him. This may be due to the suggestion in the Chinese immigrant “coaching books” – books used to guide Chinese immigrants on how to answer questions from immigration officials in order to gain entry into the United States – to answer questions as vaguely as possible to avoid being caught in a lie.

Immigration officials did not believe that the testimony of Chinese immigrants was very reliable. When Fong was interviewed, he was required to provide two white witnesses who could verify his status as a merchant. Fong selected George Randles, a wholesale grocer who conducted business with the Foo Nema Low Chinese Restaurant at 198 Mulberry Street in downtown Newark, where Fong claimed to work as the manager (thus qualifying him as a merchant). When Randles testified the first time, he spoke highly of Fong and verified that he worked as a manger at the restaurant. Randles, however, eventually went back to the immigration officials and rescinded his statement, claiming that since his testimony, he had not seen Fong at the restaurant. The immigration officials assigned to the case decided to make multiple visits to the restaurant to verify whether Fong was a manager there. On both of their visits to the restaurant Fong was not there. As a result of Fong not being at the restaurant and Randles retracting his testimony, Fong’s Form 430 was denied.

This was not the end of Fong’s quest to receive an approved Form 430. Fong hired an attorney to help his cause. In the meantime, it appears that Fong took advantage of the willingness of certain federal judges to naturalize Chinese immigrants who served in World War I, even though under the terms of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese immigrants were barred from naturalizing. During World War I, Congress had enacted a law that said that if an immigrant served in the military, than that immigrant could immediately become a naturalized citizen. According to the rationale of the law, by serving in the military the immigrants demonstrated patriotism, assimilation, and the qualities of a “good American.” Although the law was intended primarily to fast-track the naturalization of European immigrants who had served in the Armed Forces, it created a contentious debate over whether Chinese immigrants, who were allegedly unassimilable, could also become citizens. Fong’s naturalization as a citizen was either redundant, since he claimed to have been born in Oakland and therefore would have possessed birthright citizenship, or evidence that his story was not entirely true.

The DREAM Act, which went before Congress in 2010 but was not passed, relates directly to Fong’s experience. Similar to World War I, the DREAM Act stated that if an immigrant were to serve in the military, then their naturalization would be expedited. The Act poses the question: if an immigrant is willing to fight for the rights of the United States, then should they not also possess the rights of an American citizen?
Form 430 for William Wu Fong
Fong filed a Form 430 to help ease his re-entry into the United States after a visit to China. This form was specifically for use by the merchant class. However, it prompted Fong’s investigation.
Honorable Discharge Papers from the United States Army for William Wu Fong [page 1of 2]
This is the only document that Fong had to confirm his identity. It does not, however, state Fong’s date of birth, location of birth, or citizenship. It only states his position and serves as proof of his service from 1918 to 1919.
Honorable Discharge Papers from the United States Army for William Wu Fong [Page 2 of 2]
This is the only document that Fong had to confirm his identity. It does not, however, state Fong’s date of birth, location of birth, or citizenship. It only states his position and serves as proof of his service from 1918 to 1919.
Panoramic view of Camp Dix, New Jersey. United States Army Cantonment.
Fort Dix, where Fong was stationed and discharged from the United States Army.
Interview with Chinese Immigration Inspector from May 4, 1923
This was Fong’s interview with immigration officials to have his Form 430 approved during his investigation. In this interview, Fong is unable to recall his birth date, uses an interpreter (even though he claims to be born in the United States), and establishes his merchant status.
Letter from the Assistant Commissioner General of Immigration in Washington
A letter from the Assistant Commissioner General of Immigration in Washington notes that American courts had been inconsistent in their policies regarding the naturalization of Chinese veterans such as Fong.
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