blog header image

Paper Son

Posted on Friday, October 10th, 2008.

Norman Chin was born into a poor farming family in 1920, during the worst time in China. He was sold to an illegal immigrant family in order to raise money to support his own family after his father became too ill to work the farm. His family had no money and no relatives to call upon, so the conclusion was that they either sell seven-year-old Norman or his three-month-old baby brother. Norman was sold.

Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, no Chinese citizen could legally come to the U.S. to live at this time. Norman’s adoptive father, an illegal alien, bought the paper son rights from another illegal alien in order for Norman to come to the U.S. This was known as the Paper Son Deception. A “paper son” was a young man who was brought to the U.S. by someone who claimed that they were a Chinese-American citizen born in San Francisco before the 1906 earthquake and fire, and that all their papers had been lost in that disaster. Norman’s “paper father” claimed that he had three sons living in China, ages 9, 11, and 13. Norman came to the U.S. as the 13-year-old son.

As a result of the depression in China during this period, its people were scattered all over the world. As a result of the Paper Son Deception, many Chinese were able to come to the U.S. to live. This practice was quite common in those days.

In 1962 amnesty was offered to those Chinese who admitted they had committed the Paper Son Deception. It must be recognized that thousands of Chinese who came to the United States under this deception made invaluable contributions not only to the building of railroads and other major infrastructures, but to the overall economy and industry of the country.

One Response to “Paper Son”

To preserve the StoryCorps mission and experience for our readers and participants, comments are subject to the StoryCorps Terms of Service. Comments may be held for moderation or removed if deemed offensive or off-topic. Please do not resubmit your comment if you don't see it right away, it will be approved as soon as possible. Thank you.

  • Thank you for coming and talking to our residents. I enjoyed meeting you for the brief time in the morning. the pictures are great and such a keep sake. Again thanks for the memories because our residents loose a few more every day.
    Pauletta Smith
    Richfield Memory care and Enrichment Center

    Comment from Pauletta Smith DON at the Memory Care Salem Va. on October 17, 2008 at 7:55 am - Reply to this Comment

Leave a Reply

  • Major Funding Provided By

    CPB Logo
  • National Broadcast Sponsors

    CTCA Logo
  • National Partners

    NPR American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress
  • Charity Navigator Logo