NoteLii Yuen Sooy (Box 94, Case 14, 1157) and Jew Goon Jing (Box 247, Case 47, 206); Chinese exclusion acts case files, 1880-1960; Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85; National Archives and Records Administration – Northeast Region (New York).
NoteThe letter was written on November 12, 1898 and signed by the Collector of Customs January 20, 1899.
Detail: Chinese immigrants to the United States faced many hardships during the early-twentieth century. Many did not speak the language and faced prejudice and suspicion over whether they would be able to assimilate. The Chinese faced many unfair practices that restricted their ability to enter the country, or did not allow them to return if they left.
As merchants however, Lii Yuen Sooy and Jew Goon Jing could use their class position and connections with prominent white Americans in order to prove their permitted status. Lii, for example, provided a letter from James Seymour (see image below), the Mayor of Newark, stating that he was a “highly respected merchant and resident” of the city.
Prior to coming to Newark, Jew Goon Jing resided in Havana, Cuba. Many Chinese immigrants who ended up in the New York City area came from Cuba, where a large Chinese community existed. In the 1850s, sugar planters in Cuba brought Chinese “coolies” – contracted laborers indentured to plantations – to the island. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, a more economically diverse Chinese community had developed in Cuba, and Havana’s “El Barrio Chino” was one of the largest Chinatowns in Latin America.
Type: Exhibition caption
Name: A letter documenting Lii Yuen Sooy’s business and personal information.
Detail: In order to go to China for “temporary business purposes,” Lii Yuen Sooy was required by the Chinese Exclusion Act to establish his right to re-enter the country prior to departure. Lii was able to prove to the State of New Jersey that he had resided in the United States for twelve years, working for the past eleven years as a grocery merchant in Newark, New Jersey. He is 5’0 tall, twenty- six years old, and owns an interest in the grocery store worth fifteen hundred dollars. He was able to prove this fact via the sworn statements of two local whites acting as witnesses.
CollectionChinese Exclusion in New Jersey: Immigration Law in the Past and Present
RightsThe copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) governs use of this work. You may make use of this resource, with proper attribution, in accordance with U.S. copyright law.