A Chinese laborer, Jung Ah Lung left the United States for a visit to China after obtaining a Customs certificate needed to gain reentry. When he returned, however, he was unable to present the certificate, saying that pirates robbed him in China. The Customs Collector denied his reentry, forcing him to stay on the ship in San Francisco bay despite the availability of a detailed description of his physical features in the Customs books and the support for his case by affidavits and other testimony supplied by a missionary in China, a United States Consul, an Oakland editor, the Chinese Mission, and by other circumstances.
"In Re Jung Ah Lung" was an immigration case of major significance especially for Chinese immigrants during the early period of the Chinese Exclusion Acts, and for constitutional law relating to due process. The U.S. Attorney and Collector of Customs, sought to prohibit Jung Ah Lung from returning to the U.S. insisting that only official documents issued by federal immigration authorities, such as the "Return Certificate," were acceptable as evidence of U. S. residency.
The Court allowed that the Collector of Customs under Section 9 of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act had the power to require returning Chinese laborers show a valid Certificate of registration.
However, Judge Hoffman noted, "But the section affords no color to the extraordinary pretension that the result of that examination shall be final and conclusive upon the rights of passengers."
He sided with the immigrant, holding that regardless of the Exclusion Act, a Chinese person claiming U. S. residency should be entitled to the same benefits of habeas corpus, and due process in presenting relevant evidence in court, as "any other human being in this country." Hoffman's position was appealed and upheld by the U. S. Circuit and U. S. Supreme Courts.
However, the victory for the Chinese was short-lived as this precedent for all immigrant rights to receive due process in court lasted only 20 years. In 1904-1905 Ju Toy, a Chinese cook in Oakland, California was denied the right of habeas corpus to appeal denial of his reentry even though he presented his Certificate of Registration.
In the Ju Toy case, a U. S. District Court ruling initially favorable to the immigrant was reversed upon appeal in the U. S. Circuit Court (San Francisco) and then the U. S. Supreme Court. After "In Re Ju Toy," "due process" for ALL U. S. immigrants was limited to appeals within the executive branch, except when there was a claim of unlawful or arbitrary actions by immigration officials. Aliens and alleged citizens could no longer count on their "day in court" to contest the impact of immigration bureau decisions denying their right to be in the U. S.