Positioned in San Francisco Bay, the Angel Island Immigration Station served as the principle immigration facility on the West Coast of the US from 1910 to 1940. Many immigrants from China or different Asian international locations
had been detained there for prolonged intervals because of the Chinese language Exclusion Act (1882) and different discriminatory immigration legal guidelines.
The Chinese language Exclusion Period
Immigrants from China started arriving en masse in the US within the wake of the Gold Rush. Some labored as miners; others bought jobs on farms, in textile factories, or constructing the transcontinental railroad. On the time, the federal authorities did little to control immigration, as an alternative leaving it as much as the states. However with the rising inflow of immigrants from each Europe and Asia, federal authorities determined to step in, particularly after an financial downturn within the 1870s led many People guilty immigrant employees for his or her misfortunes.
As a result of rising energy of the eugenics motion—which feared the “contamination” of the white race by different races or ethnicities—Chinese language immigrants had been seen as a a lot higher risk than these from Eire or Germany. In 1875, Congress handed the Web page Act, which blocked entry to Chinese language, Japanese and different Asian laborers introduced involuntarily to the US, in addition to Asian ladies introduced for the needs of prostitution.
The Web page Act was adopted by the Chinese language Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred Chinese language laborers from coming to the US, restricted immigration to those that already had relations residing within the nation and prevented Chinese language immigrants from changing into naturalized residents.
Angel Island: ‘Ellis Island’ of the West?
Underneath the Chinese language Exclusion Act, U.S. immigration officers had been required to examine every Chinese language passenger who arrived by way of boat in San Francisco earlier than they may very well be allowed on land. As this course of typically took greater than a single day, passengers had been initially detained on steamships anchored within the harbor for that goal. In 1892, a constructing close to the harbor was transformed right into a “detention shed,” which regularly turned overcrowded and unsanitary.
When Congress lastly appropriated funds for the development of an immigration facility in San Francisco, Angel Island was thought of the best location. Traditionally residence to the Miwok Native People, the 740-acre island had since housed a big Mexican cattle ranch and a U.S. army base. After quite a few delays within the development, the immigration station was rapidly accomplished and opened on January 21, 1910 on the northeastern fringe of Angel Island.
Although referred to as the “Ellis Island of the West,” Angel Island functioned very in a different way from its New York counterpart. Ellis Island served as a processing middle primarily for European immigrants, who had been seen as simply assimilable into American society and confronted comparatively few obstacles when it got here to coming into the US.
In contrast, most of the immigrants who got here by means of Angel Island had been from Asian international locations, primarily China, and had been topic to lengthy interrogations and detentions to stop unlawful entry.
How Issues Labored at Angel Island
From 1910-40, an estimated 500,000 immigrants from 80 international locations—together with Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Mexico, Canada, and Central and South America—had been processed by means of Angel Island. The nice majority got here from China or different Asian international locations, together with Japan, Hawaii, the Pacific Islands, Korea and Vietnam.
On arrival in San Francisco, a ship’s passengers could be separated by nationality. Europeans and first-class passengers would have their papers processed aboard ship and have the ability to disembark. Asian immigrants and another teams, together with Mexicans and Russians, together with those that had been thought to wish quarantine for medical functions, had been despatched to Angel Island.
The Chinese language Exclusion Act and associated legal guidelines allowed entry solely to a couple elite occupations, in addition to kids of U.S. residents. Interrogators screened potential immigrants with detailed questions, together with biographical details about their households and the houses the place their relations lived. Many immigrants went to nice lengths, memorizing particulars about false identities as expert employees or relations of Chinese language People. By one estimate, some 150,000 individuals illegally entered the US as “paper sons” or “paper daughters” throughout the Chinese language Exclusion period.
Authorities at Angel Island submitted immigrants to exhaustive interrogations to attempt to stop this sort of unlawful entry. Whereas processing arrivals to Ellis Island usually took a number of hours or a number of days at most, immigrants might spend weeks, months and even years at Angel Island. As a result of its remoted location it was regarded as escape-proof, like one other close by facility: Alcatraz.
Processing Middle Throughout World Battle II
In August 1940, a hearth destroyed the principle administration constructing on Angel Island, and the processing of immigrants was moved to the mainland. Congress repealed the Chinese language Exclusion Act in 1943, however continued to restrict immigration from China to simply 105 individuals per yr till passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965.
Throughout World Battle II, the U.S. army used the immigration station on Angel Island as a processing middle for prisoners of battle, in addition to a detention middle for lots of of Japanese immigrants from Hawaii and the mainland United States.
Angel Island Poetry
Deserted after the battle, the buildings deteriorated till the Nineteen Seventies, when the invention of greater than 200 poems in Chinese language etched into the partitions by long-ago immigrants impressed efforts to protect Angel Island and commemorate its function within the historical past of Pacific immigration. The Angel Island Immigration Station, declared a Nationwide Historic Landmark in 1997, was later renovated and opened to the general public as a California state park.
Erika Lee and Judy Yung, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (Oxford College Press, 2010)
Historical past of Angel Island Immigration Station, Angel Island Immigration Station Basis
Richard Lui, “Paper Sons.” CNN, November 14, 2009.