Born in the U.S.A.
Chin Man Can (or Kan) is in jail on charges of being an illegal immigrant. The young man says he is nothing of the sort, but unable to prove that he was born in San Francisco because all of his belongings were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.
Can says that when he was 13, the rest of his family left San Francisco to return to China, but that he stayed behind, attending Chinese school and learning English. After the earthquake, he came to Los Angeles, where he was arrested while working at an Ocean Park restaurant.
The Times defended Can, noting that his uncle was a wealthy San Francisco businessman, Ching Wing.
“Ching Wing has always been so enthusiastic an American that he has arranged to bring up his baby as an American boy, forsaking the language of his fathers, wearing American clothes, reading American books. It seems like a joke that one of his relatives should be arrested,” The Times says.
The Times wrote in an editorial: “Every right-minded American will resent the disagreeable experiences which have befallen Chin Man Can, who appears to be our fellow countryman. Let us hope that all will end well for him and that his heart will not become embittered because of his rough treatment. We trust he will live long and prosper in the land of his birth, which has the same regard for him that she has for all her children, of whatever race, color or creed.”
An anonymous headline writer was not so kind, nor was a reporter who wrote: “ ‘Me velly flond this country,’ Chin Man stated on the witness stand. ‘Family all go back to China. Me hide in wood yard in Flisco till they all gone. I likee mission school, likee ‘Melican ways, alle slame ‘Melican myself.’ ”
Although an inspector bolstered claims that Can had been smuggled into the country, testifying that he had frequently seen Can in Ensenada, a benefactor charged that the “Mexican ranger” was railroading Can to get the $300 bounty for turning in an illegal immigrant.
In 1913, while out on bail as his case was being appealed, Can was charged with belonging to a ring smuggling Chinese across the border. By then he was manager of the Quang Hing Lung Co. at 305 Marchessault St., and attending the University of Southern California.
His trial lasted into 1914 and testimony revealed that Can had adopted the names Frank Chan and W.H. Chan. He was convicted of trying to smuggle a boxcar of immigrants into the U.S. and although he appealed his case, no further information can be found in The Times.
E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com