From 1910 to 1940, Angel Island was the site of an Immigration Station that functioned as the West Coast equivalent of Ellis Island, although the Angel Island facility also enforced policies designed to exclude, rather than welcome, many Pacific Coast immigrants coming from eighty two countries.
In 1970, the site was slated for demolition because of its deteriorated condition; but the discovery of Chinese poetry that had been carved into the walls of the detention barracks saved it from destruction and led to renewed interest in the Angel Island Immigration Station. Most importantly, the discovery of poetry increased awareness of the need to access the vivid lessons of sacrifice and triumph in the history of immigration.
Sparked by the discovery, Bay Area Asian Americans, spearheaded by Paul Chow, formed the Angel Island Immigration Station Historical Advisory Committee (AIISHAC). This organization studied how best to preserve the station for historical interpretation. In July 1976, their hard work came to fruition as the state legislature appropriated $250,000 to restore and preserve the Immigration Station as a state monument.
The barracks opened to the public in 1983, and members of AIISHAC created the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF) to continue preservation and educational efforts for the site, and to increase awareness of the contributions Pacific Coast immigrants make.
Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (AIISF)
AIISF members preserved the poems on the barracks walls and created a collection of oral histories from those who had come through the Station and their descendants. Additional accomplishments include commissioning extensive historical research and books detailing immigrants’ experiences. AIISF leveraged $40 million to develop the cultural and physical landscape of the site, create the Immigration Station Museum, and rehabilitate the Public Health Hospital Building for exhibits. In 1997, the site was awarded National Historic Landmark status.
AIISF has provided vital financial support for the Immigration Station, serving as the non-profit fundraising partner for the site.
Some notable accomplishments include:
* The California state legislature allocated $400,000 for preservation of the immigration station in 1999. California voters approved state bond measure for state parks via Prop 12 in March 2000, and $15 million was set aside for the Angel Island Immigration Station.
* In 2005, President Bush signed the Angel Island Immigration Station Hospital Preservation and Restoration Act (H.R. 606/S.262), authorizing up to $15 million to be appropriated for the restoration and preservation effort.
* California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE) awarded $3.6 million in funding for the Angel Island Immigration Station in the first distribution cycle of Proposition 40 bond funds in 2007. The funding will be used for the renovation and preservation of the historic Hospital structure and interpretive exhibits in the Barracks.
* AIISF secured federal appropriations of $1.1 million in 2008, $1.25 million in 2009, and $1 million in 2010 for the stabilization and rehabilitation of the Public Health Service Hospital located at the Angel Island Immigration Station.
* AIISF reopened the Angel Island Immigration Station Museum on February 15, 2009 after a $15 million restoration effort on the detention barracks is completed. Over 1,500 people attended the opening ceremony.
* AIISF dedicated the Immigrant Heritage Wall, which contains over 300 plaques honoring immigrant ancestors, on July 23, 2011, and its second phase the following year.
* In 2017, AIISF secured $2.952 million in funding in the state budget to complete renovations of the historic Immigration Station hospital, which will become the Angel Island State Park Pacific Coast Immigration Center and tell the story of all Pacific Coast immigration before, during, and after the Angel Island period.