Family members attempting to immigrate to America during the Exclusion era could do so only as a member of the exempt merchant class or as family of native born American citizens. This loophole in the Exclusion laws lead to extensive fraudulant claims of family relations amongst Chinese immigrants. Fictious families , and paper identities, and extensive coaching notes were needed in order to effect immigration. Over 80% of families that immigrated during the Exclusion era had at least one family member who immigrated under a paper identity.
The fictious identies had major implications on the structure of Chinese communities. Chinese imigrants needed to be closed mouthed and insular during the Exclusion era in their dealings with the greater white communities for fear of discovery of their illegal status and deportation.
Ms. Lau did extensve research of Exclusion era transcripts housed at the National Archives in San Bruno and presents a detailed and fascinating portrait of the interaction of the Immigration service in San Francisco and the Chinese immigrant community throughout the Exclusion era. The book has numerous case studies of individual immigration files that illustrate the way the immigration service itself was changed over the years as a result of the interaction with Chinese immigrants who became increasingly sophisticated in trying to circumvent it's procedures.
Finally, Ms. Lau discusses the legacies of how the Exclusion era policies continue to shape the nature of United States immigration procedures and policies in the 21st century.