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United States v. Wong Kim Ark

A Successful Writ

Wong Kim Ark's demand for a writ of habeas corpus, however, was granted because of his contention that he was a United States citizen. He charged that the Collector of Customs of the Port of San Francisco and the manager of the steamship company had deprived him of his liberty without due process. The U.S. District Court for Northern California agreed that Wong's Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated. His detention was ruled illegal and he was released.

The U.S. government appealed the writ, implicitly challenging Wong's citizenship before the Supreme Court on 5 and 8 March 1897. Ironically, both sides accepted most of the basic facts of Wong's life. It was agreed that he had been born in San Francisco in 1873, while his Chinese parents were considered permanent residents of the city. He had visited China temporarily in 1890 and had returned to San Francisco with no difficulty in passing through customs. It was further agreed that since his birth, Wong had never had any other place of residence except California nor had he ever claimed to be anything other than a United States citizen. Although his parents had returned to China in 1890, Wong worked in San Francisco, paid his taxes, and had never participated in any criminal acts. Most significantly, the government's appeal conceded that the Chinese Exclusion Acts under which Wong had been detained should not apply to him if he was indeed a U.S. citizen.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917United States v. Wong Kim Ark - The Locked Golden Gate, A Successful Writ, A Question Of Birthright, Further Readings