On This Date in Legal History

Chae Chan Ping, a Chinese immigrant, lived and worked as a laborer in San Francisco from 1875 until 1887. In 1887 he returned to China for a visit. Prior to leaving he obtained a certificate that confirmed his right to re-enter the United States. Upon his return, however, custom-house officers denied him re-entry. While he was abroad, Congress passed legislation that barred Chinese laborers from returning to the United States. Chae Chan Ping filed a writ of habeas corpus asking the court to order his re-entry; however, his petition was denied. On March 28 and 29, 1889, his case was argued before the United States Supreme Court.


Chae Chan Ping’s reentry certificate. Source: In re Chae Chan Ping, No. 10100, Oct. 11, 1888, U.S. Cir. Ct. N. Dist. Calif., Records of the District Courts of the U.S., RG 21, National Archives, Pacific Coast Reg., San Bruno, Calif.,

On May 13, 1889, the Court handed down a decision which sided with the government. Justice Field delivered the opinion of the Court– which you can read at https://goo.gl/nnsoE1. The decision includes a history lesson on the relations between China and the United States in the 1800s. Justice Field explains what triggered the new law — Chinese immigrants were taking jobs away from Americans, and not assimilating, which fueled conflict between the races. Congress responded by restricting Chinese immigration.

About Tina Nelson
Tina Nelson

Tina Nelson is an attorney and mom. She created the LAWSUIT™ board game to teach her three children about the law. The game was an instant success. Copyrights and a patent were obtained, and Professional Games, Inc. was born. Professional Games, Inc. created this blog to educate and keep its friends and customers regularly updated about our American legal system.
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