Portland Immigration Stories (Part II)

July 14, 2016 10:25 am
by David Jakeman

This is the second of a two-part series on the immigration experience of Chinese nationals to the United States. Portland immigration attorneys are generally well aware of the rich history of Chinese immigrants coming to Portland. The following are some interesting stories the help shed light on the difficult past of Chinese immigrants to the United States.

From Fargo to Portland

One Portlander tells of her great-grandfather who came to the United States and started a restaurant in Fargo, North Dakota. He helped pave the way for his son to soon come and help keep the restaurant running. Each generation left a child behind. So the woman’s great-grandfather preceded her grandfather, and her grandfather left her father back in China until he was old enough to come on his own.

Her father tried to come, but his journey was more difficult. His first try was stopped by WWII. The second was stopped by the immigration bureaucracy. It wasn’t until 1977 that he was able to come to Portland with the help of a sister who had married a U.S. citizen. He was closer to the age of retirement, but he had to start over in order to help his children have the American Dream. For those of Chinese immigration descent, U.S. history taught in school doesn’t always cover the important and vital contributions Chinese immigrants have made. Especially those in the Portland area.

Separated Immigrant Families

Portland immigration attorneys know numerous stories of immigrant families being separated by laws and federal bureaucracies. Such was the case for Chinese families seeking to live the American Dream in the face of the Chinese Exclusion Acts. One woman’s grandfather came to the United States in the late 19th Century, but he was unable to bring his family. As a result, he maintained relations by travelling as often as he could back to China.

These trips helped bring about three sons. Her grandfather’s story was not as well known in part because he died in New York when he was working in a laundry business. A stray bullet from Chinese gangs ended his life. Such difficult beginnings made it difficult for his descendents to feel fully comfortable, and her father always had anxiety about traveling.1 Ultimately, it’s easy to see the long-term effects that immigration enforcement and exclusion can have on immigrants. Hopefully we can learn from these past experiences and help families in these difficult circumstances.

1 – http://www.oregonlive.com/history/2016/02/oregon_chinese_exclusion.html

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