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Paper Sons

In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed local public records. Dating from the fire, many Chinese claimed that they were born in San Francisco. With this citizenship the father then claimed citizenship for his offspring born in China. In subsequent trips to the Orient, the father would report the birth of an offspring or two upon his return, usually a son.

Sometimes, the father would report the birth of a son when in reality there was no such event. This was what was termed a “slot” and would then be available for sale to boys who had no family relationships in the United States in order to enable them to enter this country. Merchant brokers often acted as middlemen to handle the sale of slots. Sons who entered the country in this fashion were known as “paper sons.”

The fact that such deception was practiced was entirely due to the exclusion law. All the “paper sons” wanted was to emigrate to America in search of a better life.

The History of the Chinese in California
Thomas Chin, editor