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How Wong Kim Ark Saved Birth-right Citizenship

Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco in 1873. His parents were Chinese citizens who had come to the U.S. for the same reason as many Chinese immigrants, to work the California Gold Rush and on the railroads. At 25 years old Ark traveled outside of the U.S. but upon returning was refused re-entry on the grounds he was not a citizen. The decision to refuse his re-entry was based on the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers for 10 years. Instead of sitting and waiting, Ark sued America. In United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898) further defined the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The court decided, "a child born in the United States, of parents of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China", automatically became a U.S. citizen at birth.


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