United States Immigration Station, Angel Island
Angel Island, U.S. Immigration Station
Angel Island Dormitory
|Nearest city||Tiburon, California|
|Area||731.8 acres (296.1 ha)|
|Architectural style||Mission/Spanish Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||71000164|
|Added to NRHP||October 14, 1971|
|Designated NHLD||December 9, 1997|
Angel Island Immigration Station was an immigrant processing facility on Angel Island, in the San Francisco Bay. It opened in 1910 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now the site of a museum. The museum and grounds were renovated and reopened to the public in February 2009. President Barack Obama, on the day of his inauguration declared January 21 as national Angel Island Day in honor of all the immigrants who suffered long periods of detention before they were admitted to America.
Asian immigration can be dated back to "1788 with a crew of Chinese shipbuilders, carpenters, metal workers, and sailors." The government responded to the influx of immigration by instating a series of exclusion acts. Asian immigration quotas began with the Page Act of 1875, which essentially eliminated standard citizenship rights to the Chinese-Americans, and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which essentially banned all Chinese immigration. Citizenship issues arose and Angel Island, "the Ellis Island of the West," officially opened as an immigration station in 1910 lasting through the Great Depression until 1940 when an electrical fire burned down the administration building. Angel Island Immigration Station served as the processing center for most of the 56,113 Chinese immigrants who are recorded as immigrating or returning from vacation in China. The reason this number is so large, even though the 1882 Exclusion Act was renewed in 1892 and 1902, is because in 1924 the Johnson–Reed Act, including the National Origins Act and Immigration Act of 1924 (Asian Exclusion Act), limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States. Asian countries were not specifically mentioned in the list of quotas. They were in the category of "All others: 1,900" out of a total of 165,000 immigrants.
The predominantly Chinese immigrants who were detained at Angel Island were not welcomed in the United States. As recounted by one detained in 1940: “When we arrived, they locked us up like criminals in compartments like the cages at the zoo.” Held in these “cages” for weeks, often months, individuals were subjected to rounds of interrogations to assess the legitimacy of their immigration applications. These interrogations were long, tiring, and stressful. Immigrants were made to recall minute details about their home and claimed relations—how many steps led up to your front door? Who lived in the third house in the second row of houses in your village? The interpreters for the proceedings may have not have spoken the particular dialect of the immigrant competently; most Chinese immigrants were from southern China at that time, many spoke Cantonese. It was difficult to pass the interrogations, and cases were appealed many times over before one could leave the island and enter the United States. Often, successful immigrants produced elaborate instruction manuals that coached fellow detainees in passing interrogations; if anyone was caught with these manuals, they would most likely be deported.
Many of the detainees turned to poetry as expression—they spilled their emotions onto the very walls that contained them. Some of the poems are bitter and angry, others placid and contemplative; all, however, read with a heavy sadness.
- “America has power, but not justice.
- In prison, we were victimized as if we were guilty.
- Given no opportunity to explain, it was really brutal.
- I bow my head in reflection but there is nothing I can do.”
- “I thoroughly hate the barbarians because they do not respect justice.
- They continually promulgate harsh laws to show off their prowess.
- They oppress the overseas Chinese and also violate treaties.
- They examine for hookworms and practice hundreds of despotic acts.”
Angel Island Immigration station has long been overshadowed by Ellis Island although both served the same purpose. There has been major lack of awareness about Angel Island Immigration Station and the struggle of the immigrants who were detained there for days, weeks, months and in a few cases years. Most Asian American immigrants, especially from the West Coast, have at least someone in their family genealogy who has been directly or indirectly affected by the Angel Island Immigration Station.
The museum grounds are open daily for a small fee (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). The barracks building is available by self-guided and guided tours (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). The mess hall directly across from the detention barracks has a 20-minute video documentary on the Angel Island Immigration Station that can be played at will.
- California Alien Land Law of 1913
- Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (McCarran-Walter Act)
- Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965
- Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
- Immigration Act of 1990
- Tye Leung Schulze; the first Chinese American civil servant in the United States, who worked at Angel Island.
- Tyrus Wong, imprisoned on Angel Island when he was 9, he was later released and became the chief artist for Disney's Bambi.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- California NHL List
- Welts, Allen W.; Gary W. Weaver (February 30, 1970 (sic.)). "Angel Island" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
- "United States Immigration Station, Angel Island". National Historic Landmark Quicklinks. National Park Service. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
- Presidential Proclamation, White Office Press Website
- Okihiro, G. Y. 2001. Common Ground: Reimagining American History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Press. Chapter 1, “West and East”
- "Who Was Shut Out?: Immigration Quotas, 1925–1927". Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1929
- Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910–1940 written by Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung
- Angel Island State Park official website
- Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation - the non-profit partner of California State Parks and the National Park Service in the work to restore the historic immigration station at Angel Island.
- Angel Island Conservancy - Established in 1975, AIC’s primary mission is to facilitate the preservation, restoration and interpretation of historical and natural resources on Angel Island, with the goal of enhancing the visitors’ experiences and building a community to support AISP.
- U.S. Immigration Station Tours
- Early History of the California Coast, a National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
- Angel Island Company, State Parks concessionaire for tours, bike rentals, and catered picnics
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. CA-1841, "Camp Reynolds, Angel Island State Park, Angel Island, Marin County, CA", with 14 other entries for individual buildings