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Japanese Alien Land Law Investigation Records
MSS 323  
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The collection consists of materials related to 19 investigations into Japanese-owned properties focused in San Joaquin County and escheat cases that resulted from them.
The 1913 Alien Land Law enacted in California limited aliens ineligible for citizenship to only any property rights guaranteed in treaties with their respective countries. Effectively, this targeted aliens from Japan, since they were unable to apply for citizenship under the immigration laws at that time, and the 1911 U.S.-Japan treaty made no mention of property rights. Violations of the law would result with the property in question being escheated to (confiscated by) the state. Despite this barrier, Japanese immigrants continued to increase their land holdings in California. Several methods for circumventing the law grew common in the years following. These included purchasing land in the name of a child and holding it under guardianship, or forming an agricultural corporation to hold the land. Anti-Japanese lobbyists grew increasingly discontented, and in 1920 a new, more restrictive Alien Land Law was placed on the ballot and passed. This new version was intended to prevent the circumventions of the 1913 law that had become common. It stated that when a person purchased land in another's name, it was assumed that this was intended to bypass the law. The burden of proof was also shifted to the defendant. The defendant would now have to prove that the land had not been purchased as it was in order to circumvent the Alien Land Law. The Law was challenged in 1948, in Oyama v. California. Fred Oyama sued the State of California, arguing that his rights as a citizen had been violated when the state confiscated the land in Los Angeles that his non-citizen father had held in his name. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor, and overturned a portion of the 1920 law. The entire law was overturned in 1952, in Fujii v. California. During the period that the Alien Land Laws were in effect, the state filed 76 escheat proceedings.
2.25 linear feet
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Collection open for research.