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Lee Me Bo
Curator(s): Urban, Andy; Chávez, Vanessa; Mason, Mario; Rochfort, Melissa; Vargas, Mari
Lee Me Bo, born in Hin Loo Village, China, worked at a grocery store. He came to the United States through Montreal after his brother Lee Yick paid 250 dollars to the firm Yee Wo Lung & Company to smuggle him into New York through the border town of Malone, since he did not have papers entitling him entry. Upon arrival, Lee worked in the store of Quong Yuen Shing in New York City for seven years, for a monthly salary of 30 dollars. Lee saved money in order to obtain interest in Quong Lee Yuen & Company, based on Lafayette Street in Newark. On February 15, 1908, Lee initiated the procedure to officially establish his status as a merchant, which would allow him to depart for China with the intent to reenter the United States. He was 35 years-old and married to Wong She, and had no children. As part of legal proceedings, Lee Me Bo had white witnesses Alethia M. Carter, Adolph Franz, Lizzie Ash, James Ash, John Yourth, and Mrs. Roubroy testify to his involvement in Quong Lee Yuen as a merchant.
Lee Me Bo had come before the immigration officials to obtain the necessary certification of his merchant status prior to departing the United States for China so that he would be eligible for reentry upon his return with minimal scrutiny and hassle. He was required to submit to an interrogation to prove his merchant status and to confirm that he was not undertaking any manual labor. The provision of the Chinese Exclusion Act that was being enforced in this case was the need for Lee Me Bo to acquire the appropriate certifications from the Immigration Service in order to be able to reenter the United States as a domiciled merchant when returning from China.
The United States restricted Chinese immigration through the Chinese Exclusion Act but Section 6 created an exemption for students, teachers, merchants, and travelers. Lee Me Bo was smuggled through Canada and created his life in New Jersey. He was able to prove he was a merchant and gain the right to reentry although he did not have resident papers. The white witnesses who testified on Lee’s behalf knew him through the Protestant Sunday School where he studied, and their religious affiliation gave them credibility as “respectable” members of the community. Although they could not verify positively his merchant status, they believed him to be a credible, assimilated Chinese man, who attended their school regularly.
Certificate of Departure
Lee Me Bo, 35 years-old, born in China, was requesting that his status as a merchant be honored in order for him to return to China for a temporary visit and be allowed re-entry into the U.S. as part of legal requirements under Section 6 of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Geary Act.
Lee Me Bo's petition to gain re-entry to U.S.
Lee Me Bo declares that he is a 35 year-old Chinese immigrant, proving his height, weight, eye color, and, physical markings. He also declares to prove that he is a merchant associated with the Lee Yeun and Company invested with eleven hundred dollars interest. Lee Me Bo provides his residence in New York for eight years and the current three years in Newark, New Jersey. He is petitioning to gain reentry to return to his residence and business after his trip to China.
Transcript of Lee Me Bo's interrogation with the Chinese Inspector A. B. Wiley.
This is an image of the first page of Lee Me Bo’s interrogation. Chinese merchants wishing to leave the United States and return later would submit to these interrogations prior to departure to be able to reenter with merchant status as part of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Section Six, and the Geary Act.
Letter from A.B. Wiley, the Chinese Inspector assigned to Lee Me Bo's case.
In this letter, A.B. Wiley, the Chinese inspector assigned to Lee Me Bo’s case, states that while some of the facts in the case are still unclear, since Lee’s white witnesses were “reputable people,” he was confident that he was indeed a merchant, as they claimed.
Letter of intent for reentry
This is a letter of intent for reentry on behalf of Lee Me Bo proving his status as a merchant and proving he has been with the firm Lee Yeun & Company for three years, stated by his manager.
Letter from Inspector, J. G. Sullivan, allowing Lee Me Bo to enter U.S.
Two years later, in June 1910, he filed for re-entry under the status of being a merchant with an established interest still remaining in Quong Lee Yuen. In his paperwork upon return, Lee Me Bo sighted [i.e., cited] the birth of a son and because of his preliminary measures was allowed entry with no restrictions.
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