Monday, 01 February 2010 13:30
Lead in: "There are no angels on Angel Island, only blood and tears"
The Island does not live up to its idyllic name. It is the site of lengthy detention and the buildings contain poems carved into the walls.
Inscription on the bell...Between 1910 and 1940 500,000 immigrants from 80 countries passed through the Island, at least 170,000 were from China, for them there was no golden sunshine. The 1881 Exclusion Act shut out the Chinese because they were convenient scapegoats. After the destruction of records during the SF 1906 earthquake, some saw this as an opportunity to get in. The government looked upon incoming Chinese immigrants as "paper sons," often detaining them for long periods of time on the island for questioning. The second largest incoming group (about 20,000) was Japanese picture brides.
As one walk from the pier and climb the long stairs, one arrives at the barracks where male detainees were held. There were 200 beds, although one could look out, all they could see was the fence. It felt like a cage. The building almost disappeared after the 1940 fire and long period of neglect. In 1970 just before it was to be torn down an important discovery was made: poems carved on to the wooden walls, covered over as graffiti by coats and coats of paint.
(Reading of one of the poems) People sometimes forget that the US is a nation of immigrants, and this serves as a reminder...
Centennial ceremony: 100 people became citizens on the centennial of the immigration station including applicants from China. Ceremony honored an outstanding American By Choice Dr. Samuel So for his achievement in the medical and public health field: he founded the Liver Cancer Research project at Stanford University. Eric Mar, one of three Chinese Americans on SF's Board of Supervisors sees his father's image in the new citizens: his father was a detainee on Angel Island. The Chinese immigrants held to their dreams and made a life in the US, found their place here and will continue to write the future of our history. This message was echoed in the President's welcoming message to the newcitizens: in American no dream is impossible.