Archives #3 – Courtlyn Plunkett

Habeas Corpus cases deal with various means of deportation, in particular it deals with issues that are illegal under law, such as prostitution. Through my research at the archives, I found numerous cases where the subject at question was guilty of housing prostitutes or the committing the act of prostitution. In file number 53,678-163, Wong Sun Shee, alias Wong Sam, was found in violation of the Act of Congress approved on February 20, 1907 to which was found receiving, sharing in, and deriving the benefits from the earnings of a prostitute. With this ruling, she was to be deported back to China. Her daughter, Louie Ngo, completes an affidavit in hopes that the Department of Labor will reconsider her mother’s deportation. She states that her mother is in poor health; has no relatives or friends in China; and that her village has been destroyed by flood. As well, if she was to return to China, she will likely perish due to her ill health.  Along with her daughter’s affidavit, numerous others were submitted by local Chinese firms and individual Chinese and whites on her behalf.

            Wong Sun Shee was taking into custody after a raid had been done on a house of prostitution in San Francisco. She was then further charged with holding certain Chinese girls in peonage. Wong Sun Shee denied that she shared the earnings of these Chinese girls and that she was only the housekeeper and knew nothing of their doings. However, one of the girls, Lee Choy Lin, who was later deported to China, stated that Wong Sun Shee held her in slavery and forced her into practicing prostitution to which she received $250 to $300 a month from them. Lee Choy Lin stated that she had been smuggled in on the Manchuria ship in 1909 and was taken to this house in Chinatown to which she was made to practice prostitution. 

            Her attorney pleads for leniency because Wong Sun Shee is a mother and grandmother of numerous United States citizens. As well she is old women is who is weak physically and mentally. It was with this testimony that her warrant for deportation was sustained and that she was to be deported back to China at the Government’s expense. 

An important figure at this time that supported Chinese immigrant women who fell victim to bondage and prostitution was Donaldina Cameron. She was a protestant missionary who worked at the Mission Home in San Francisco. Mission Home provided these victims a safe haven as well as provided them with schooling, bible study, and domestic training. Through her work at Mission Home, Donaldina fought to save these women from slavery in Chinatown. Through her career, she saved roughly 2,000 to 3,000 girls from slavery. It is important to include her in this analysis on prostitution because it shows the other side of the law. As in, it shows the people who were trying to save these people rather than getting them deported from the United States.

Commissioner General of Immigration, Washington D.C. March 16, 1916, File 53,678-163, accession E9, Subject Correspondence, 1906-1932, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington, DC). 

Kamiya, Gary. “The Woman Who Fought Chinatown Sex Slavery for Decades.” San Francisco Chronicle, February 2, 2018. Accessed November 21, 2019.

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