Political Leaders Visit Angel Island to Reconnect with Values

 

The Faith & Politics Institute selected Angel Island as a destination of this year’s pilgrimage in order to expose Congressional leaders to Asian American history. Other sites on this pilgrimage included San Jose’s Japantown and Los Angeles’ Chinatown. The intent of these trips are to focus leaders on why they ran for office in the first place: to make a difference for those they serve and our nation as a whole.

Angel Island Immigration Station was proud to be asked to host this gathering, to bring attention to the challenges that immigrants face, as well as the human cost of racially discriminatory immigration policies. Past FPI Pilgrimage sites have included:

  • Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina
  • South African sites of apartheid history
  • Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma, Alabama, where members of Congress and Senate explored the events that dramatically challenged racial discrimination and turned the course of American democracy  

The group toured the Immigration Station at Angel Island and learned the stories of the people who passed through its doors – many of them Asians who were detained due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. They heard about the struggles the immigrants faced because of our nation’s laws, and the emotional toll it took.  The story of Angel Island is one of struggle, but also success – a majority of immigrants who passed through Angel Island rose above the discrimination they faced.  Like generations of immigrants before and after them, they worked hard, created thriving families, and educated the next generation.

Angel Island asks us to grapple with the questions, “Who is an American? Who do we include and exclude?”  AIISF was proud to ask our lawmakers to consider these lessons from history as they craft policy for the future.

 

Bringing the Immigration Station to Classrooms

 

Not every student and teacher can make the trip to Angel Island, but it is possible to bring Angel Island Immigration Station to every classroom through PORTS (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students). The PORTS immigration module is composed of four lessons that ask students to identify multiple different perspectives on immigration, explore why the U.S. is a nation of immigrants, and dive deeper into their family’s immigration story. 

The goal of the program is to connect visitors today with the many issues and situations that immigrants faced on Angel Island over 100 years ago, and help students explore their own family stories and those of immigrants today.

Interpreter John Clagett reports that technology grant  allows him to take the camera to spots of the Immigration Station that were previously inaccessible. He can now show students even more engravings carved by immigrants on the barrack walls. To learn more about PORTs or sign your student group up for a session, visit the California State Parks website.

Teachers Learn to Facilitate Classroom Dialogue on Immigration

 

As Americans, we all know the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty, standing tall as a beacon of hope, and its words, “Give me your tired, your poor….”. This sentiment has guided our identity as an immigrant nation, forming the very core of who we are as Americans. Yet while the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island figure prominently in our national psyche, the story of Angel Island remains little known. 

The educators who ventured to Angel Island as a part of the NCSS workshop learned about an alternate immigrant story in our nation – the one represented by Angel Island – and gained tools to talk to students about our complicated history with immigration. The teachers participated in a discussion which served as a model for fostering classroom dialogue about the subject and gained access to teaching materials, which they can use after they return to their home states. The participants had the following feedback about the workshop:

“[The workshop] changed my perspective and my understanding...and how I will be teaching immigration...Now I can use my new knowledge to teach about Angel Island Immigration Station, the Chinese Exclusion Act and the parallels to today’s DREAMers, immigrants … and the perception of “other” and how destructive that is. If you can’t tell -- I’m really fired up about this and can’t wait to teach my kids about it.”

“This isn’t “Ellis Island West” but something entirely different happened there [Angel Island] -- something that looks a lot more like immigrant detention today.”

“The most important benefit of going to Angel Island to participate in a workshop is the experience of “being”. Through the workshop experience I will be able to relay the experience of west coast immigrants in what seems like a first-hand story because I have walked into the station that processed the immigrants and touched the items that they would have carried. It was an eye-opening experience.”

Given the current climate on immigration, educators are clamoring for relevant resources to teach about the subject. California and the nation’s demographics are changing rapidly. More than one quarter of Californians are immigrants; more than half of Californians are Latino or Asian. In the last five years, the majority of the state’s immigrants are coming from Asia. Immigration is a topic that already exists in our classrooms and AIISF is now increasing our education efforts to meet the needs of teachers and students.

If you are interested in future workshops or teacher events, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be added to our educator’s list.

2017 Year-in-Review

Here are some highlights of Angel Island Immigration Station’s 2017 accomplishments:

  • Brought lessons of tolerance and racial equity into the national dialogue: AIISF leaders published an Opinion article in the New York Times in March 2017, reminding millions of readers of the lessons learned from the Chinese Exclusion Act, and urging us to draw meaning from that difficult history.

  • Created spaces for public discourse on immigration: Restoration of the Public Health Building on Angel Island is in full swing. Once complete in 2018, it will house the Pacific Immigration Center, a new state-of-the-art museum and interactive learning hub.

  • Welcomed 20,000 visitors and schoolchildren to the Immigration Station, who left with a deeper sense of the historic challenges and contemporary opportunities of a diverse society.

  • Used technology to expand our reach: By supporting our partner, California State Parks, and its PORTS program, we were able to educate over 1,000 students and teachers via live Internet conversations. These "virtual field trips" bring the values of Angel Island - empathy and civil rights - to students, regardless of their school's ability to travel to Angel Island.

  • Amplified Immigrant Stories: Through our Immigrant Voices website and Across Generations filmmaking program, we continue to record and share the diverse history of Pacific Coast immigration, cultivating a sense of shared history and common humanity.

Please consider making a gift to AIISF, to enable important work like this to continue. Gifts can be made online here or sent in the mail to AIISF, 870 Market Street, Suite 941, San Francisco, CA 94102.

AIISF Presents the Screening of

the 2017 Across Generations Videos 

at the Asian Art Museum on 
July 15, 2:30-4 PM

Please join us to hear the diverse immigration stories 

of our first-generation elders

from the Russian, Japanese and Chinese communities as thoughtfully filmed and edited 

by more than thirty young students from our community! 

"Across Generations" is part of AIISF's community outreach program to create meaningful opportunities for our youth to learn the immigration history of our elders. 

Partner Organizations: Asian Art Museum, Donaldina Cameron House, J-Sei, Japanese Community Youth Center 

Special thanks to the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation for funding this program.

For free tickets until July 10, which include museum admission, visit our Eventbrite site

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