National Archive Post #2

Paul Hogue

On my most recent trip to the National Archive Center, I was able to uncover more information on South Asian immigration. I examined documents that came from people who emigrated to America from places such as India, China, and Japan. These documents gave details of why some of these immigrants chose to come illegally, as well as the police reports of those who were arrested on U.S. soil. These records came from across the United States such as: Arizona, California, New York, and Texas. Through my research I came across a report about a convicted smuggler from British India, of a man named Ram Singh.

The first document I was able to find was a letter from November 17, 1928, between the Honorable John G. Sargent, his assistant secretary Robe Carl White, and the Attorney General about convicting smuggler Ram Singh. The letter detailed why Ram Singh was both arrested and convicted and why they believed that his parole should be denied. They wanted his parole denied because in what White explained: “violation of the immigration laws”[1] referring to an immigration law he broke that involves bringing illegal aliens into the United States.

Along with the documents I read I also found the border patrol arrest report of Singh’s, written by Joseph A. Conaty, who was the Acting District Director, to the Commissioner-General of Immigration in Washington, D.C.. The report explained Ram Singh’s arrest in Fish Springs, Imperial County, California by border patrol. Ram Singh was not only arrested for smuggling illegal Mexican immigrants but also for the contraband they found on him, which was food for another group of smugglers. The report gives details about how Ram and his partner Indr Singh planned the smuggling, and what he calls a “smuggling enterprise”[2] because of how many illegal immigrants they would transport to the United States.

While reading the documents, I was able to find a deportation letter for Ram Singh from the Acting Commissioner of Immigration George J. Harris dated August 22, 1928 to the Commissioner of Immigration at the Angel Island Station, a U.S. Bureau of Inspection and Detention for illegal immigrants in San Francisco, California. In the letter Commissioner Harris explains that he wants Ram Singh to be sent back to his home country of British India, because of his role in smuggling illegal aliens from Mexico into Mexicali, California. He used Section 8 of the Immigration Act for his basis of the argument to deport him. Section 8 states that “Any person who… encourages or induces an alien to… reside…knowing or reckless disregard of the fact such…residence…in violation of the law, shall be punished as provided…for each alien in respect to whom such a violation occurs…imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both”[3]. The section was an important argument for the commissioner to use because Singh was smuggling aliens out of personal convictions for expanding his and Indr enterprise.

I also found the arrest warrant for Singh by the U.S. Department of Labor Immigration Service District No.31 dated July 24, 1928, which was executed by Inspector Walter Bliss. The inspector gave him his rights and allowed him to explain to the court why he should stay in America. He also gave Ram a clean bill of good health based on how he looked. He does not write about if he received a proper medical evaluation, but just observed his physical features and presumed he was in good health. 

The last document I looked at was a court transcript between Ram and Inspector Bliss. The inspector was asking standard questions for immigrants who were in the country illegally; such as where their home countries are, how did they come to America, what is their purpose for being in America, and do they have family here. Then after that, he asked him about his smuggling operation of illegal aliens from Mexico coming to the U.S. It also showed Ram being sentenced to one year in prison for his role in the smuggling operation, but he was permitted to stay in the U.S. after his sentence was completed.

The material about Ram Singh was very informative and eye-opening. It showed the legal process that immigrants, here legally or not, must go through when they are convicted of a crime in the United States. These documents showed that immigrants go through the same process as someone who was born in the U.S., but they also have the added fear of not only going to jail but potentially getting deported to a country they worked so hard to leave once they are released.


[1] Robe Carl White, Assistant Secretary, letter, Los Angeles, California, November 14, 1928, File 55635-3; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, (National Archives, Washington D.C.)

[2] Joseph A. Conaty, Acting District Director, Washington D.C., October 26, 1928, File 55635-; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, (National Archives, Washington D.C.)

[3] Federal Immigration and Nationality Act Section 8 USC 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv)(b)(iii), accessed October 24, 2019, http://www.flimen.org/Section274felonies.htm.

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