About Me

After a career of over 40 years as an academic psychologist, I started a new career as a public historian of Chinese American history that led to five Yin & Yang Press books and over 100 book talks about the lives of early Chinese immigrants and their families operating laundries, restaurants, and grocery stores. This blog contains more research of interest to supplement my books.

8/26/19

The Case of 22 Lewd Chinese Women Chy Lung v. Freeman, 92 U.S. 275 (1876).

Chy Lung was one of 22 Chinese women on the steamer Japan that journeyed from China to San Francisco in 1875. The immigration commissioner decided that Chy Lung and the other 21 women were "lewd and debauched women," because they were traveling alone. The captain of the ship refused to post a $500 bond per woman to allow her to land and detained the women on board. They sued and filed a writ of habeas corpus, that allowed them to disembark under the custody of the Sheriff of the County and City of San Francisco.

The women appealed the decision to deport them. The California High Court upheld the constitutionality of the statute used to deny them entry and upheld their deportation. The women appealed the decision and won their freedom.  One of the women, Chy Lung,  the United States Supreme Court,  the first case with a Chinese litigant to appear before the United States Supreme Court, Chy Lung v. Freeman, 92 U.S. 275 (1876).  The United States Supreme Court ruled that the power to set rules surrounding immigration rested with the United States Federal Government, rather than with the states.

Interesting, no one knows what happened to the 22 "lewd and debauched" after they were allowed to enter the U.S., and it was suspected that some, if not all, were indeed prostitutes.

Judge Denny Chin, a circuit court judge in the United States who is famous for sentencing Bernie Madoff, arranged for the enactment of a courtroom drama about the case. He considered the case historic because it was the first by a Chinese litigant, and also one where the court ruled in favor of the litigant at a time when sentiment against Chinese and immigration was rising in the 1870s.

A performance using trial transcripts, "22 Lewd Chinese Women: Chy Lung v. Freeman," was created by The Trial Reenactment Team of the Asian American Bar Association in collaboration with the New York City Bar Association on May 21, 2014, to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

A second re-enactment of the trial was sponsored by a Washington, D.C. legal firm, McDermott Will & Emery.

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