To the Editor:
Re “135 Years Ago: Travel Ban News,” by David W. Dunlap (Times Insider, March 17):
Thank you for featuring the photograph of Asian women and children detained at the immigration station on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. The stark image is a timely reminder that our country has always struggled with each wave of new immigrants and can often be seduced to fear and denigrate differences.
For Asian immigrants landing in San Francisco, Angel Island was the first stop. Opened in 1910 specifically to enforce a populist ban on most Asian immigration, the island’s immigration station, until 1940, processed and detained over 500,000 new arrivals.
Immigrants were locked up in cramped quarters, fed inferior food, and subjected to long medical exams, interrogation and detention for as long as two years. While waiting for their ordeal to be over, Chinese immigrants carved poems into the barracks walls to forever etch their feelings of sadness, loneliness and fear while imprisoned on Angel Island.
As a fifth-generation American, I deeply hope that our country will remember the lessons from its history of Asian immigrants 100 years ago so we do not repeat the errors of the 20th century in the 21st.