Equal Protection Rights 1886

Equal Protection Rights 1886

Equal Protection Rights 1886
In 1880, a San Francisco law specifically targeted Chinese laundries like this one, precipitating a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that extended the Constitution’s equal protection clause to all American residents.
Equal Protection Rights 1886

Yick Wo v. Hopkins

Facts of the case

In 1880, the city of San Francisco passed a law requiring all laundries in wooden structures to have a permit granted by the city’s Board of Supervisors. The board had complete control over who received a permission. Despite the fact that Chinese workers operated 89 percent of the city’s laundry companies, no Chinese owners were given a permit. Yick Wo and Wo Lee ran washing companies without a permission and were imprisoned by the city’s sheriff, Peter Hopkins, after refusing to pay a $10 fee.

Each filed a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that the ordinance’s fines and unequal enforcement violated their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court of California and the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of California, respectively, dismissed claims for Yick Wo and Wo Lee, citing the law’s nondiscriminatory nature on its face.

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