Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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A Paper Daughter's Angel Island Story

by Flo Oy Wong

Summary Interview by Flo Oy Wong with Lily Wong Chooey on November 23, 1999.

Jin, Sheung Ngaw – 1940 (AIIS Detainee May 30 – June 19, 1940)

Jin Sheung Ng

Jin Sheung Ng

Jin, Sheung Ngaw  (Lily Wong) entered the U.S. as a unmarried “paper daughter” in June of 1940, accompanied by an uncle who was returning to this country after a visit to China. She was twenty years old and her real name was Ong May Wun.  She had three sisters and a brother. In reality, Lily, who was married, hoped to join her husband in San Francisco. Because of the rarity of “papers” for women it was three years before her husband found and purchased “papers” for her entry. However, Lily departed for the U.S. with “papers” as a single woman, leaving behind a three year-old daughter in the care of her parents-in-law.

Upon arrival in the U.S., her uncle left for Texas and Lily went to stay at the Angel Island Immigration Station. She was there for 19 days and was interrogated once. Her interpreter was a woman named Hall Lan.  Lily was comforted by Hall Lan’s kindness; the interpreter asked if she wanted water and also wanted to know if Lily needed to rest.  The questioning was conducted in sze yup, the fourth dialect in Cantonese.  While waiting to be admitted to the U.S., Lily made new friends. They spent much time together, talking and looking out at the sea for a ferry to take them to San Francisco and their freedom.  Lily was served mush, coffee, and toast for breakfast; at lunch, she ate Chinese food, using Chinese rice bowls and chopsticks.

Upon her release from Angel Island, Lily met her “paper father” in San Francisco (her real father was in the Philippines where he ran a restaurant). Lily maintained cordial relations with her “paper father” and his real family in America.  A Chinese minister’s wife helped Lily to assimilate to her new life by teaching Lily to wear high heels and to perm her hair. A short time after W.W.II, Lily was reunited with the daughter she left behind in China when her husband purchased another set of identification papers to bring their child to the U.S. Lily also raised an American-born family. She passed away in July, 2008.

On January 23, 2010, Flo Oy Wong gave her permission to donate a copy of Lily's interview to Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.

Flo Oy Wong: I met Lily Wong through her daughter, Jeanie Low. Jeanie is a quilter, the author of China Connection, an Angel Island activist, and Kearny Street Workshop Outreach Coordinator for my exhibition “made in usa:Angel Island shhh”. Jeanie served on the Save Our National Archives Committee to keep the regional offices of the National Archives open nationally. She was involved with the successful effort to preserve the Alien Registration Case Files. I interviewed Lily at Jeanie’s house on November 23, 1999.

Place of Origin
Kaiping, China

Place of Settlement
San Francisco, CA

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