The Confession Program reveals how consideration for the Cold War, international relations, costs and challenges of enforcement, diminishing bias against Asian immigration, and acceptance of small immigrant populations reshaped immigration policy. The Immigration Bureau and the FBI used this program to try regularize the statuses of the many Chinese Americans who had entered the United States using some form of immigration fraud under the discriminatory Chinese exclusion laws. In doing so, they acknowledged the racism in the now repealed laws, but also practical matters such as the unwillingness to deport Chinese Americans en mass when they had otherwise been largely law-abiding and tax-paying residents. They were also responding to the 1955 Drumright Report by the Hong Kong Consul-General which explained how difficult it was to reliably identify fraudulent passport applicants which made the United States vulnerable to infiltration by Chinese communist spies. This regularization of status required Chinese Americans to “confess” their fraudulent status and implicate family members and others involved in the immigration network, thereby rendering themselves and others liable for loss of status and deportation. A minority of Chinese Americans participated because of established mistrust of the immigration bureau, but most of those who did so did gain legal citizenship. However, fraudulent immigration status was used to prosecute and deport a small number of political leftists and labor organizers.
GN 00302.970 Chinese “Confession” Cases
How procedure worked
The “confession” program worked as follows:
|1||The Chinese immigrant, accompanied by his/her attorney, visited INS district office to “adjust his/her status.”|
|2||Immigrant presented his/her “personal history statement,” which included information about:|
|4||INS conducted an investigation based on “confession” statement regarding the immigrant and others named in his/her statement.|
|5||INS changed their illegal alien status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence and eligible for naturalization. The statement was also used as the basis for petitions for immigrant visas by the individual on behalf of family members still living outside the U.S.|
Analysis from M. Hsu:
The Chinese Confession Program, “a procedure for an administrative adjustment of status,” called on Chinese who had fraudulently immigrated to the United States to voluntarily disclose their false status and acknowledge all the names of their “paper” relatives, whether in the United States or still unused slots, in exchange for which the INS would attempt to adjust their legal status so they could legally remain. Enacted in partial acknowledgment of Chinese American claims that “Chinese exclusion was the cause of Chinese illegal immigration,” the confession program aimed to shut down the paper son system so that it could not be used by communist spies and to normalize the status of Chinese Americans who would then be able to integrate more fully, having shed their illegal status. In practice this program terrified and divided the Chinese American community, which had been policed so stringently for decades by the very same government agencies suddenly calling on them to acknowledge their illegal entry, a deportable offense, and betray friends and relatives without any guarantees that doing so would secure their right to remain. By 1965, 11, 336 Chinese had participated willingly, with 19,124 implicated in the confessions of others forced to do so as well, eliminating about 5,800 unused slots. Only about 13 percent of the Chinese American population of 1960 (237,292) had cooperated willingly or unwillingly, with most who did so remaining in the United States cleared of the shadows of exclusion, while most of those who had stayed silent were able to do pretty much the same” (p. 157).
Excerpt from: Hsu, M. Y. (2015). The good immigrants: How the yellow peril became the model minority. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.