Journey to the West:
Poems and Stories of Chinese Detainees on Ellis Island
Judy Yung


在家千日好, A thousand days at home are easy;
出外半天難。 Half a day abroad is hard.

Translated by Charles Egan[1]

In 1985, during the renovation of the immigration station at Ellis Island in New York City, preservationists uncovered more than 400 square feet of inscriptions in eleven languages on the walls, columns, partitions, and doors left by detained aliens sometime between 1901 and 1954.  There were messages of hope and despair.  One Italian immigrant wrote, “Damned is the day that I left my homeland.”  There were also drawings of boats, birds, flags, and people.  Others simply put their hand on the wall and drew its outline as evidence that they had been there.[2]

Among the new discoveries found on the third floor of the Baggage and Dormitory Building were several Chinese poems and inscriptions etched on the marble partitions of the men’s bathroom stalls.  Some of the poems were partially illegible.  One political slogan, “Long live China! Victory to the people! China will overthrow imperialism!” was dated June 17, 1952.  None of the poems were signed or dated, although one poem made reference to the Sino-Japanese War (1939-1945).

Written in the classical style of Chinese poetry with four or eight lines per poem and five or seven characters per line, the poems bear a strong resemblance in content, tone, and language to those found carved into the wooden barracks at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. This should come as no surprise since the writers were from the same socioeconomic strata and geographic region in China, and all were given similar cold receptions by U.S. immigration officers intent on enforcing the Chinese Exclusion Act.[3]


思念故鄉眼淚流,      Thinking of home, my tears begin to flow;

不知何日可無憂。      I wonder, when I can ever be free of worry?

父母伯叔妻兒散,      Parents, uncles, wives, and children scattered;

樓房屋宇變成溝。      Our houses and rooms completely leveled.

命大如天花旗到,      Luckily I landed in the Flowery Flag,

以為安寧可無愁。      Thinking I would be safe and free of sadness.

誰知移民將我捕,      Who knew that I’d be seized by immigration officials?

不由分說入拘留。      They threw me in detention, ignoring my protests.

何能解決苛條例,      How can I gain relief from these oppressive laws?

待期勝利可自由。      I await the time of our victory, for then we can be free.

亦望同群齊合力,      I hope compatriots will join together, pool their strength,

捐輸回國殺我仇。      Donate funds, and return home to kill our enemies.[4]

得見父母妻兒會,      Then, when I’m reunited with my parents, wife, and children,

笑口吟吟講西遊。      With laughter I’ll describe my journey to the West.[5]

Translated by Charles Egan[6]


Adhering to the structure of regulated verse, this poem echoes the same themes and sentiments as found in the Angel Island poems — war and poverty that drove Chinese immigrants overseas, resentment at being detained and confined, and the desire for China to become a free and strong country capable of defending its citizens abroad.

There was one major difference in the backgrounds of Chinese detainees at Angel Island versus Ellis Island—the predominance of Chinese seamen who had been arrested for desertion and were awaiting deportation at Ellis Island—as many as 206 men in 1925 and 300 in 1943.[7] Most of them were poor, uneducated, and from Guangdong Province.  Some hailed from Fujian, Shanghai, and Hainan Island.  This second poem, a quatrain, was most likely written by one of these sailors.

長監苦困壽命長, Though imprisonment is long and bitter, my life will be long;

去船恐有身受傷。 When I landed from the ship, I feared bodily harm.

勸君莫怕移民例, I urge you: don’t be afraid of immigration laws

定有安然放我歸。 It’s certain we’ll be freed to go home in peace.

Translated by Charles Egan[8]


Another translation of this poem in the New York Times interpreted the second line differently: “But I suffer not like I may suffer if I were back on the ship, where they might hurt me if I were to return.”[9] This makes sense given that many Chinese seamen at this time were complaining about racial discrimination and cruel treatment on board the foreign vessels they served.

Away from home for six months at a stretch and lonely for female companionship, Chinese sailors were probably also the ones who drew the lewd sketches of nude women and wrote the following poem—a muddled version of a well-known folk rhyme of the late-Qing dynasty. According to Mr. Chow, who was detained at Ellis Island for two weeks in 1950, drawing graffiti on the bathroom walls was one way for the men to relieve their frustration and loneliness.  Chow remembered seeing a young man trying to etch the following poem on the bathroom wall.  He noticed mistakes in the poem and tried to suggest corrections, but to no avail.[10] No such drawings or poems of a sexual nature were found among the 300 Chinese inscriptions and graphics on the barrack walls at Angel Island.[11]


二八佳人巧樣貌, A girl just sixteen, of dazzling beauty,

一雙玉手千人枕。 A pair of jade arms, and a pillow for a thousand heads.

伴點脂唇萬客帛, The dot of rouge on her lips has been tasted by countless men;

洞房晚晚換新郎。 Each night, her bridal bower welcomes a new bridegroom.

Translated by Charles Egan[12]

The original poem of eight lines come from Qianlong xia Jiangnan (Emperor Qianlong Travels to the South), a novel that describes the romantic and martial adventures of Prince Bao before he ascended the throne as Emperor Qianlong.  In Chapter Eighteen, the prince, dressed as a commoner, asks a favored courtesan to write him a poem, and she offers the following:


二八佳人巧樣妝, A girl just sixteen, with dazzling makeup;

洞房夜夜換新郎。 Her bridal bower, each night, welcomes a new bridegroom.

一雙玉臂千人忱, A pair of jade arms, and a pillow for a thousand heads.

半點來唇萬客嘗。 The dot of rouge on her lips has been tasted by countless men;

做就幾番嬌媚態, How many times has she cast a coquettish glance,

裝成一片假心腸。 And pretended a love that was false?

迎來送往知多少? She welcomes them in, and ushers them out–-who knows how many?

慣作相思淚兩行。 Experienced in love, her tears fall in lines.

Translated by Charles Egan


The literary quality of these poems pales in comparison to the Angel Island poems, which were rendered in beautiful calligraphy on the walls.  The absence of literary allusions and historical references in the first two poems and the errors made in the third poem, are indications that Chinese detainees at Ellis Island were less educated than those at Angel Island.

*           *           *

Who might these anonymous poets have been?  How did they end up at Ellis Island instead of Angel Island, where the overwhelming majority of Chinese immigrants were detained and processed?  And what do their poems, oral histories, and immigration records tell us about their treatment at Ellis Island as compared to that of Chinese immigrants at Angel Island?

It all started in 1882 at the height of the anti-Chinese movement brought on by economic recessions, labor strife, and white racism.  That year Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, barring the further immigration of Chinese laborers to this country and denying Chinese aliens the right to naturalization.  The Exclusion Act marked the end of an open door immigration policy and laid the foundation for subsequent laws that excluded other Asian immigrants and restricted immigration from southern and eastern European countries.  It also firmly established the immigration apparatus needed to enforce the immigration laws—inspection and detention sites, inspection policies, and federal documentation such as passports, visas, and “green cards.”

Built in 1892, the immigration station at Ellis Island was indisputably the busiest and most important immigrant portal to the United States. Until it closed in 1954, 12 million immigrants, mainly Europeans, were quickly inspected and processed through at the rate of 5,000 people per day.  The newcomers were given a cursory physical exam and asked a total of twenty-nine questions to make sure they were not convicted criminals, lunatics, prostitutes, dangerous radicals, or “liable to become a public charge.”  Twenty percent of the twelve million had to be detained overnight or at most for a week or two because of legal or medical issues.  In the end, only one percent were denied entry and deported.    The exceptions to this pattern were Chinese immigrants, who, like at Angel Island, were thoroughly examined and often detained for weeks and months at a time. According to a newspaper reporter, “Chinese boys seem to spend the longest periods on the island.”[13]

Ellis Island may have been the busiest port of entry, but because there was no direct line of ships between China and New York, there were fewer Chinese applicants to inspect at Ellis Island than at Angel Island. From 1900 to 1930, 100,000 Chinese applicants were processed through San Francisco and Angel Island, as compared to 40,000 at Port Townsend and Seattle, 20,000 at Honolulu, and only 5,000 at Ellis Island. Compared to Angel Island, detention time was shorter for the Chinese at Ellis Island and there were fewer exclusions and appeals, mainly because of the higher class of travelers (merchants, students, and government officials) who were coming to New York from Europe, Cuba, Trinidad, and Mexico. As was true at Angel Island, first- and second-class passengers were usually inspected on board the ship and did not have to even step foot on Ellis Island.  Only 5 percent of the Chinese applicants who were denied entry at Ellis Island appealed their cases as compared to 25 percent at Angel Island, but the deportation rate for the Chinese at Ellis Island was twice as high—12 percent as compared to 6 percent at Angel Island.[14]

Based on a list of 4,142 Chinese exclusion case files from Ellis Island at the National Archives in New York, I estimate that 90 percent of the detainees were male, 40 percent claimed U.S. citizenship, 20 percent claimed merchant status, 8 percent were students, and 5 percent were seamen or stowaways awaiting deportation.[15] Many of the Chinese immigrants had come to Ellis Island by way of Hong Kong, Vancouver, Montreal, and Halifax.  Upon arrival, they were turned over to immigrant inspectors in the Chinese Division of the U.S. Immigration Service.  These so-called “Chinese inspectors” were well aware of the devious methods that the Chinese were employing to evade the Chinese exclusion laws and gain admission into the country—by smuggling across the Canadian border, falsely claiming to be members of the exempt classes, or surrendering themselves at the border for arrest and trial under the guise of being natives of the United States.  Their job was to prevent the illegal entry of Chinese immigrants into the country.  Immigrant inspectors held all Chinese claims for right of admission suspect until the applicant’s identity and asserted relationship could be verified through cross- examination on matters of common knowledge between the applicant and his witnesses.  The burden of proof was on the applicant.[16]

The Case of Native Sons

The Commissioner-General of Immigratiion (CGI) Annual Report for FY1936/37 noted that most Chinese seeking permanent residence at that time were claiming the right to enter as American citizens, either by reason of birth in the U.S. or as the foreign-born children of citizens, as the following three cases show.

In 1939, after a tearful parting with his mother in Toishan City, 16-year-old William Yee left for Hong Kong, where he boarded the Empress of China bound for Vancouver.  Summoned by his father, who was living in New York at the time, he was leaving home to avoid conscription and to escape the ravages of the Sino-Japanese War.  “I’m actually a fourth generation American,” he said in an interview with the Ellis Island Oral History Program.[17] In 1869, the year that the transcontinental railroad was completed, his great-grandfather became the first in the family to go abroad to seek his fortune.  He found work as a sheep rancher in Wyoming and returned to China, where he died.  William’s grandfather also went to America to try his luck, but he died within two years of some illness.  William’s own father had better luck. He first worked in the canneries of California and Alaska before settling down in New York City. Now it was William’s turn to continue the tradition of going overseas to make a better living.

From Vancouver, William took the Trans-Canadian Railroad to Montreal and made his way to Halifax, where he got on a cruise ship headed for New York.  “Looking at the Statute of Liberty,” he recalled, “I know I’m here [I’ve arrived].”  His father was at the port to meet him, but he was not free to go with him.  Instead, William was taken to Ellis Island by ferry for immigration inspection.  Unlike at Angel Island, he was not subjected to a blood and stool examination for parasitic diseases, but his eyes were probably checked for signs of trachoma.  Then he had to wait three weeks before he was called for a hearing before a Board of Special Inquiry (BSI) consisting of two immigrant inspectors, a stenographer, and a Chinese interpreter—just like at Angel Island.

When asked to describe his stay at Ellis Island, William replied, “Ellis Island is a confined space [with] a guard outside your dormitory and you stay within the confines of your dormitory.”  He recalled that the dormitory, where the Chinese men were kept segregated from women and other races, was almost full.  As to the food he was served in the dining hall, William vaguely remembered there was rice and Chinese food, “no hamburgers or anything like that.”[18] Unlike the Chinese detainees at Angel Island who all complained that the Chinese food was unedible, William had no complaints.  To pass the time, he said, they could participate in art and craft classes run by volunteers.  The rest of the time he spent waiting to be called for the interrogation.  “Some people came back crying because they had answered wrong, and some people were very depressed.  I just felt numb the whole time, waiting to get out of there.”

Gem Hoy “Harry” Lew, who was detained at Ellis Island for two months in 1951, also claimed to be the son of a U.S. citizen. Fifteen years old at the time, he had come by plane via Calcutta, London, and Newfoundland to join his father, a laundryman in New York.  During his oral history interview, he had this to add about detention life:

There had to be at least two hundred Chinese, 95 percent from Hong Kong or Toishan, all speaking the same dialect.  We slept in a room that had fifty guys, in bunk beds one on top of each other.  We’re never allowed outside, always stay in the same room. Go to the dining hall, they feed us, we go back to our living quarters or hang out in the corridor area.  We play chess, play cards, play ball, try to kill time, see? That’s all the pastime we can have. Boring for two months.  [Sometimes fighting would break out] just like in prison.  These guys who have been there for months get tense and aggravated.  They gather together, they talk something insulting, and they start fighting.  I had a good time because we had nothing to do. In fact, when I left Hong Kong I was less than a hundred pounds.  When I get out of Ellis Island I weigh a hundred and fifteen.  I gained fifteen pounds.  They fed us, and nothing to do.[19]

Like many other Chinese immigrants at the time who were trying to circumvent the Chinese Exclusion Act, William Yee took the “crooked path” by assuming the false identity of a son of a U.S. citizen.  Constantly on the lookout for these “paper sons,” the Board of Special Inquiry asked him many questions about the layout of his village, his neighbors, his family and relatives in order to verify his true identity and relationship to the sponsor.  The same questions were asked of his alleged father, who evidently gave the same answers.  William had done his homework in studying carefully the coaching book that had come with the purchase of his false identity. “I was successful at the interrogation because I have a good memory of what I’m supposed to say, see.  So that’s why I’m here today.”  He passed the test and was landed soon after his hearing.  William would go on to graduate from high school and serve in the all-Chinese 14th Air Corps during World War II.  He met and married Catherine Chan in Shanghai, and was able to bring her to America under the War Brides Act.  The couple settled in New York City, where William ran a successful business importing Chinese art goods and raised a family of two children.  As to what became of Harry Lew, he graduated from Fordham University with a pharmacy degree and opened the Chung Wah Pharmacy on Mott Street in New York’s Chinatown.

Fourteen-year-old Chin You Fun, who was detained at Ellis Island for two months in 1936, was not as lucky.[20] He also claimed to be the son of a U.S. citizen, but he was grilled for two days and asked 119 detailed questions about his family background, the layout of his village and house, and his voyage to America.  His alleged father and brother served as witnesses and were asked the same questions.  Their answers were also compared to those given by family members in previous investigations.  While the BSI conceded that the alleged father was a U.S. citizen and that he could have sired the applicant on a return visit to China, they excluded Chin You Fun because of certain discrepancies in the answers that put the claimed relationship in doubt.  In particular, the alleged father had reported in 1920 prior to his departure for China that his wife had died.  So how could the applicant, born in 1923, be his blood son?  In addition, the BSI pointed out twenty other discrepancies in their answers as proof that the applicant, father, and brother lacked knowledge that they should have possessed.

The family retained a very smart attorney to appeal the ruling to the Secretary of Labor.  He was able to successfully argue point-by-point that the evidence presented by the Board in their summary judgment was immaterial and inconsequential to the case.  For example, he said that the father had forgotten to mention he had a granddaughter because he had never seen her, she having been born at a time subsequent to his last visit to China.  No one in the family knew the whereabouts of the oldest son because he had been out of touch with the family for some twelve years. As to the father’s reporting the death of his wife in 1920, the attorney argued that it was most likely a misunderstanding because in subsequent hearings, he always asserted that his wife was still alive in China.  Then in a brilliant move, the attorney pointed out the many instances of agreement in the testimony, even with respect to the location of the official post office in the Sin Loong grocery store owned by one Chin Sun Kai, as conclusive proof that father and son were related as claimed. Chan You Fun’s case shows how meticulous and difficult some of the immigrant inspectors were at Ellis Island, but also how appeals could be won through the judicial system.

The Case of Chinese Seamen

As noted in the CGI annual reports through the years, many Chinese were employed as seamen on foreign ships because China had no merchant marine and the Chinese could be hired at lower wages.  Once on U.S. soil, all seamen were allowed sixty days of shore leave and were not subject to U.S. immigration laws.  The Immigration Service was well aware of how many Chinese were using this privilege to gain illegal entry into the country, either as disguised seamen or as deserters. The CGI Annual Report for FY1915/16 noted that out of 8,047 Chinese seamen on 396 vessels, 67 escaped and only 5 were apprehended.  With the outbreak of World War I, desertions doubled due to the dangers of shipping in the war zone and to dissatisfaction with the low wages.

During the 1920s and 1930s, immigration officers frequently conducted raids in Chinatown looking for illegal aliens.  In 1925, in an effort to put a stop to the tong wars as well as deal with the rise in desertions, officers rounded up 600 illegal aliens, many of whom were seamen who had overstayed their leaves.  Two hundred of them were detained at Ellis Island for weeks and months while awaiting hearings and deportation.  During the Great Depression, with thousands of native seamen unemployed, the Seamen’s International Union applied pressure on the Immigration Service to arrest and deport any and all Chinese seamen who were illegally in the U.S.  As a result, more than 200 were caught, confined at Ellis Island, and ultimately deported.[21]

In 1924, Lee You, a former seaman, was apprehended in one such raid after the Immigration Service was tipped off that his employer, Reliance Fireproof Door Company in Long Island, New York, employed illegal aliens.  During his BSI hearing at Ellis Island, Lee You revealed that he was twenty-eight years old and born in Kiangsu Province.  He had been a seaman for eleven years and first came to the U.S. in 1917 on a Norwegian ship from Calcutta.   His last trip was on a Dutch vessel that landed in Brooklyn, New York.  When he could not find work on another ship, he decided to stay in the U.S. and started working at Reliance, dipping metal and wooden frames into paint for 65 cents an hour—“unpleasant work nobody wants to do,” according to the investigator.  The BSI ordered him deported for engaging in labor, which violated the Chinese Exclusion Act,  and in addition for being illiterate, and therefore inadmissible according to the Immigration Act of 1917.

Most Chinese seamen at that time did not have the funds or support to hire an attorney to appeal their cases, but Lee You did.  However, his appeal to the Secretary of Labor failed.  Unable to furnish bond in the amount of $3,000, he was confined at Ellis Island for three months before he was deported to China via San Francisco.[22] There was a deportation train that took deportees from Ellis Island to San Francisco every six weeks, but in the case of Lee You, he was put on the S.S. Comus in New York on January 24 and deported from San Francisco on February 7, 1925.

Again in 1943, immigration officers, at the behest of British and Dutch shipmasters, arrested 170 Chinese seamen for jumping ship and illegal entry.  They were sent to Ellis Island and held there without bail for over three months.  Still they refused to go back to work until their demands for better treatment and equal wages were met.  When the House of Representatives passed a bill to have them deported to England, they petitioned Congress to deport them to China instead, pointing out that they would be severely punished if returned to England.  Representative Samuel Dickstein of New York, after receiving repeated protests from supporters and going to Ellis Island to hear from the seamen themselves, agreed there was merit in their grievances.  He proceeded to help pass legislation in Congress to prohibit the deportation of alien seamen to another country without the consent of their home government.  In the case of the Chinese sailors, they would not be deported to England but to China.[23]

How did this group of Chinese sailors find life in detention at Ellis Island?  According to their petition, “We have been fed with very poor food, and slightest protest brings immediate reprisal.  We cannot receive any telephone messages.  We are closely watched all the time.”[24] They might have passed their time at Ellis Island doing art and craft projects, playing cards or ball, gambling (possibly by betting on which fly or insect would be the first into a circle drawn on a wall), or writing graffiti on the bathroom walls.[25] One of them might have written this Chinese couplet that is still visible on the walls at Ellis Island today.  It aptly sums up the hardships suffered by Chinese detainees at Ellis Island.


在家千日好, A thousand days at home are easy;

出外半天難。 Half a day abroad is hard.

Translated by Charles Egan[26]


*           *           *

In 1943, Congress repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act as a goodwill gesture to China, a U.S. ally in World War II.  Chinese aliens could finally become U.S. citizens, but only 105 Chinese per year were permitted to immigrate to the United States. It was not until Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1965 that the last vestige of racism was removed from our immigration laws.  Thousands upon thousands of Chinese immigrants were admitted based on a preference system that favored family reunification and skilled and professional labor.  As a result, families that had been separated for decades were finally reunited and America benefitted by the large influx of high-tech and professional workers.  The Chinese American population grew from half a million in 1970 to four million in 2010.

Yet today, fifty years later, we find ourselves embroiled in another immigration debate—what to do about the eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of society and with thousands more attempting to cross our borders every day; the 400,000 immigrants and refugees per year who are detained in government and private prison facilities for months at a time and in far worst conditions than at Angel Island or Ellis Island; and the long waiting line of applicants trying to join their families in America or to get a work visa.  As we search for a way to fix our broken immigration system, we would do well to heed the lessons of Angel Island and Ellis Island, of what can go wrong when our immigration policies do not live up to our ideals of liberty and justice for all.  If we are to maintain our lead in the global economy while remaining true to our values as a nation of immigrants, our government needs to construct a new, equitable, and workable immigration system for the 21st century.


Judy Yung is Professor Emerita of American Studies at UC Santa Cruz.  Her publications include Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940; Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco; and Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America.

This article was first published in CUNY Forum, vol. 3:1, Fall/Winter 2015-2016, and is reprinted with permission from Russell C. Leong, Editor-in-Chief.  To view Judy Yung’s video lecture about Chinese immigrants and poetry at Ellis Island, visit


[1] Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung, eds., Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940, 2nd edition (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014), 182-83.

[2] George Bayliss, “At Ellis Island, Memories Found in Graffiti,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 2, 1989, p. 8-A; Barry Moreno, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ellis Island (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 2004), 97-98.

[3] Him Mark Lai, “Chinese Detainees at NY’s Ellis Island Also Wrote Poems on Barrack Walls,” East/West, November 8, 1985,1; Yuan Guoqiang, “The sorrows of Chinese immigrants on Ellis Island linger for a hundred years,” Zhong Bao, August 30, 1985.

[4] Japan invaded China in 1937, sparking the Sino-Japanese War.

[5] Journey to the West (Xiyou ji) is a favorite novel among the Chinese, who often entertained one another with narrations of scenes during their leisure time.

[6] Lai, Lim, and Yung, Island, 180-81.

[7] “72 More Chinese Ordered Deported, 206 Now at Ellis Island,” New York Times, September 20, 1925,1; Liu Liang-mo, “China Speaks: China is Fighting as an Ally, But She is Not Being Treated as One,” Pittsburgh Courier, March 27, 1943.

[8] Lai, Lim, and Yung, Island,180-81.

[9] Albert J. Parisi, “Anxiety, Not Fear,” New York Times, July 7, 1985.

[10] “Unbearable memories in Ellis Island immigrant poems,” Huaqiao Ribao, August 5, 1985.

[11] Architectural Resources Group, “Poetry and Inscriptions: Translation and Analysis,” prepared by Charles Egan, Wan Liu, Newton Liu, and Xing Chu Wang for the California Department of Parks and Recreation and Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, San Francisco, 2004.

[12] Lai, Lim, and Yung, Island,182-83.

[13] Libby Lackman, “Aid Immigrants at Ellis Island,” New York Times, March 2, 1941

[14] These comparative statistics were compiled from tables on “Chinese Seeking Admission to the United States,” found in the annual reports of the Commissioner-General of Immigration (CGI) from 1900 to 1930.

[15] “New York Chinese Exclusion Case Files,” National Archives at New York City. This list includes immigration case files in the New York District Office that date from 1882 to 1960 and is not complete, as many case files may have been lost, destroyed, or moved to other locations through the years.  I am indebted to Vincent Chin for sharing the list with me.

[16] CGI Annual Report, FY1927/28, 15-16.

[17] William Yee, interview with Janet Levine, July 18, 1994, Ellis Island Oral History Program, Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

[18] There is no evidence that Chinese food was ever served at Ellis Island.  According to Moreno’s Encyclopedia of Ellis Island, a typical meal consisted of boiled beef, potatoes, lentil soup, succotash, bread and butter, and tea (150).

[19] Gem Hoy “Harry” Lew, interview with Paul E. Sigrist, May 17, 1993, Ellis Island Oral History Program, Ellis Island Immigration Museum.  According to the description of the dormitories in the CGI Annual Report for FY 1927/1928, they were much nicer than the Chinese quarters at Angel Island: “The quarters occupied by detained aliens consist of large, light, well-ventilated rooms with floors and dados of Dutch or white glazed tile. Each person is allotted a white enameled single bed with woven-wire spring, good quality mattress, pillow, blankets, and clean linen.  Bathrooms have built-in porcelain tubs as well as showers (27).”

[20] Chin You Fun (You Ah Foo), File 169/194, Box 504, Chinese Exclusion Case Files, Record Group 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, National Archives at New York City.

[21] CGI Annual Report, FY 1915/16, 179; CGI Annual Report, FY 1916/17, 179-80; “Chinatown Cowers as Raids Continue,” New York Times, September 16, 1925; Peter Kwong, Chinatown, N.Y.: Labor and Politics, 1930-1950 (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1979),119.

[22] Lee You (Lee Ah Foo), File 55/153, Box 253, Chinese Exclusion Case Files, Record Group 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, National Archives at New York City.

[23] Liu Liang-mo, “China Speaks,” Pittsburgh Courier, March 27, 1943; “Chinese Seamen to be Released,” Gazette and Daily, May 31, 1943; “Chinese Seamen Win Long Fight,” Gazette and Daily, July 9, 1943.

[24] “Chinese Seamen to be Released,” Gazette and Daily, May 31, 1943.

[25] The gambling game played by Chinese men at Ellis Island is described in Meyer Berger’s article, “6 Guards Out, 26 Accused in Ellis Island Graft Case,” New York Times, February 14, 1952.

[26] Lai, Lim, and Yung, Island,182-83.