Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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Meet Angel Island Immigration Station Volunteer Docents Elizabeth and Joe Chan

For the past 11 years, Elizabeth and Joe Chan have conveyed the story of Angel Island immigrants to thousands of visitors.  Renowned for their thorough knowledge of this historic site, Eliz and Joe provide a comprehensive and compassionate picture of this unique American immigration station. This is the first in a series of articles about the volunteers and staff at the U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island.

Immigration Detention and the Secure Communities Program

by Bill Ong Hing
Professor of Law, University of San Francisco

Those of us familiar with the history of Angel Island as a detention center know that the impetus began with the Chinese exclusion laws. Chinese seeking to enter the country were subject to close scrutiny. An individual was not excludable if he or she had a valid claim to U.S. citizenship or if a migrant was entering as a student or merchant. From 1910 to 1940, some 175,000 Chinese were confined - often for months and years at a time - in Angel Island's bleak wooden barracks, where immigration inspectors conducted interrogations.  Those Chinese who could not establish eligibility to enter were sent back to China, having come within what today is a short ferry ride to San Francisco. For some, the frustration and humiliation were so painful that they committed suicide.

Rediscovered Poems from Angel Island Immigrants highlight January 21 program in SF

On January 21, 2012, over 50 people gathered at San Francisco's Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) to hear a lecture by Charles Egan, professor of Chinese at SF State University, on recent discoveries of poems of Angel Island immigrants. Professor Egan was able to decipher Chinese poems, which were obscured on the detention barrack walls. Japanese and Korean poems written about Angel Island and on the immigrant experience were found by reviewing microfilm of vernacular press of the 1910s to 1940s.


102nd Anniversary of Immigration Station Opening on January 21 features a lecture and readings of Angel Island poems by Charles Egan at JCCCNC in San Francisco


Phase One of Immigration Station Hospital Nearly Done

Recent visitors to the Immigration Station have heard the staccato of hammers hitting nails as workmen place new wood shingles on the roof of the historic hospital.  By the end of November, the entire roof will have new shingles.  When the rainy season hits in full force, water will run down off the roof onto new gutters, thus removing the danger of water damage to the building. A new coat of exterior paint will also help protect the hospital from the elements.

Work crews also removed rotted wood from inside the hospital and installed new wood shoring from the ground floor up to the roof.  This will help hold up the walls as we wait for the permanent rehabilitation of the interior in the next phase of the project.  The stabilization work began after all the asbestos and toxic lead paint was removed. 

As this work proceeds, the Museums and Interpretation section of the California State Parks is being funded by AIISF to develop an interpretation plan for the hospital.  Several rooms such as the Asian men’s ward and surgery room have been designated for historical restoration. These rooms will have exhibits and signage that will tell visitors about the treatment of immigrants at the hospital.  Other rooms have been designated for rehabilitation and repurposed as lecture and performance spaces.

It’s an exciting time as we envision how a refurbished hospital can enrich the visitors’ experience at the Immigration Station.


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