Louie Quan Bang was born in Victoria, Canada, on December 29, 1913. As a boy, he emigrated from Vancouver to the United States through the port of Seattle in 1924, along with his alleged father, mother, and brother. Louie’s father, Loy Hoy Yuen, was a merchant who worked in the meat industry in Canada and was thus exempted from the Chinese Exclusion Act. He and his family were issued Section Six certificates permitting their entry into the United States. From Seattle, they travelled to Los Angeles and Long Beach, finally settling in the city of Vallejo, about 30 miles from San Francisco.
Louie initially enrolled in Lincoln Grammar School for the sixth grade, and later graduated from Washington Junior High School. He established himself as a responsible student and son, earning “good” and “excellent” marks in the ninth grade, all while helping out in his father’s restaurant after school. Multiple teachers who had Louie in class “spoke well of his standing.”
In September of 1928, with the help of Washington Junior High School’s principal, Mr. J.P. Utter, Louie began preparing for an 18-month trip to China to visit his grandparents, hoping to ensure that he would be allowed to return as a student to the United States. There was a delay in processing his request for a return permit, and the required investigations by immigration authorities with teachers at Louie’s school did not take place before his slated departure of December 7, 1928. Louie stated in his first interview on Angel Island a week before the departure date that he would go to China regardless of whether he received a return permit or not. This statement, in combination with a general lack of importance placed on his case by immigration authorities resulted in the investigation being halted until Louie returned from China on August 13, 1930, which marked the beginning of his detention on Angel Island.
Louie had his second interview on Angel Island at the end of September 1930. Partially because he answered some questions about his family and work experience differently from his first interview in 1928, the action on his case was deferred for some time. However, the main reason was because his father’s merchant status was called into question. Immigration officials suspected that the Section Six certificates that were issued in Vancouver were fraudulently obtained. Loy Hoy Yuen’s merchant status was now under scrutiny, to determine if he, and by extension, his family, legally entered the United States from Vancouver in 1924; if they did not, then Louie’s return to the United States from China would certainly be jeopardized.
Louie was released on September 30, 1930, and allowed to return to Vallejo, on a $500 bond insuring that he would not become a public charge, paid for by his father. While Louie was able to leave the island, it was a temporary respite, as the bond implied the further guarantee that he would return for questioning and future action on his case when deemed necessary. By then, Louie had been detained on Angel Island for six weeks from the time he landed after visiting China.
The initial inspection by immigration authorities into the status of Louie’s father, Loy Hoy Yuen, as a merchant revealed a number of suspicious circumstances. Specifically, there was no outside investigation of Loy Hoy Yuen’s status prior to the issuance of the Section Six certificates. Moreover, the requisite affidavits from two white persons to verify his merchant status were nowhere to be found, and seem to never have been requested.
As to the specifics of Loy Hoy Yuen’s merchant status, it was found in November 1930 that the company in Vancouver with which he claimed to be affiliated, Gin Wo Chong, was not listed in the Vancouver City Directory for any year between 1920 and 1924, the time prior to his immigration to the United States. Thus, compounded with the lack of initial investigation and documentation, it indeed appeared that Loy Hoy Yuen was not a merchant in Vancouver as he stated in his 1924 affidavit. In spite of the apparent perjury, the U.S. Attorney Geoffrey J. Hatfield determined that there was not enough indisputable evidence to deport Loy Hoy Yuen and his family, especially since Section Six certificates, once issued, are considered prima facie, true until proven otherwise.
With the future of Loy Hoy Yuen’s family, including Louie, seemingly secure (despite the apparent lack of merchant status), it would seem logical to finally process Louie’s immigration, return the bond, and allow him to return to Vallejo freely. However, also uncovered in the inspection into Loy Hoy Yuen’s merchant status was evidence suggesting that Louie was not Loy Hoy Yuen’s son. Despite an affidavit in 1923 in which Loy claimed Louie to be his son, upon arriving in Seattle from Vancouver in 1924, Loy Hoy Yuen did not claim Louie as his son, while he did so for two other boys accompanying him and his wife. Moreover, Louie Quan Bang’s Canadian birth certificate gave his parents as Louie Yee Chong and Lee Shee, clearly different from Loy Hoy Yuen and Low Shee (the wife of Loy). A notation on Louie’s immigration record also stated that his “parents returned to China” and that he was “now living with his Uncle.”
The obvious discrepancies in the birth and immigration documents, personal statements, and affidavits warranted further investigation that occurred on April 28 and 29, 1931, when Louie and his alleged father, mother, and brother had to go to Angel Island for questioning. The father, Loy Hoy Yuen, tried to explain that he and his wife wanted to give Louie their childhood names on the birth certificate, but the officials were not convinced, especially in light of the notation that Louie was “living with his Uncle.” Louie’s initial statement in 1928 about visiting his grandparents in China also seemed questionable, as both Loy Hoy Yuen and his wife stated that their parents were deceased.
When asked to explain the statement about the boy’s parents returning to China and him living with his Uncle, Loy Hoy Yuen simply said, “I cannot understand that,” and with further prodding, he terminated the interview by saying:
I wish that you deport the applicant back to China and give me back my bond money. I would rather not go any further in this examination…he is my son…personally I would like to see him landed in this country, but I don’t see the use of taking all this trouble. I don’t expect him to do anything in this country anyway except to get an education.
Even after this request, the Board of Special Inquiry decided to perform a physical resemblance check, having Louie, Loy Hoy Yuen, Loy Hoy Yuen’s wife, and one of their sons line up next to each other. All three board members saw no physical resemblance between the now 17-year-old Louie and the others. Louie was then informed of his denial of entry into the United States, as it appeared he was not the son of Loy Hoy Yuen. Upon hearing Loy Hoy Yuen’s statement that he wished the applicant to be deported, Louie simply said, “If my father does not care to appeal, I have no choice in the matter. I will abide by his decision.” Louie was formally denied readmission on May 1, 1931, almost a year after arriving back from China. He was deported on May 16, 1931.
While it appears that Loy Hoy Yuen had falsely claimed that Louie was his son when he was really his nephew, and then, when the immigration officials started confronting him with all the discrepancies and he dismissively requested his deportation back to China, perhaps there is another story. On June 11, 1931, less than a month after Louie was deported, Loy Hoy Yuen, his wife, and their four children traveled to China without any provisions to return to the United States. Perhaps it is the case that Louie was indeed the nephew of Loy Hoy Yuen, but through his immigration to the United States and subsequent living and working with Loy Hoy Yuen and family, he grew to be like a son. While we will never know the truth or the motivations of these immigrants, it may be that Loy Hoy Yuen and his family realized that they would not be allowed to continue living in the United States with Louie, so they resigned themselves to his deportation and moved to China as well.
Ethan Gacek, a Yale student, wrote this Immigrant Voices story during his externship at AIISF in March of 2015. Thanks to Judy Yung for editing assitance.