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From 1940 to 1941, eleven individuals testified on behalf of 18-year-old Angel Island detainee Manfred Schrimmer. Was it enough to earn him entry to the United States?
Manfred Schrimmer’s case was difficult to prove: the young Jewish refugee, who had arrived at the Angel Island Immigration Station on August 28, 1940, appeared to have had his ship passage paid by the German Relief Society for Jewish Refugees. Such a ticket – one expressly paid for by an association or other institution – was illegal under the Immigration Act of 1917.
Manfred, along with many supporters, fought for ten months to demonstrate that the Relief Society was no more than a holding place for funds sent in by Manfred’s family and friends. Testimonies on his behalf came from all over: cousins and uncles in New York City, representatives from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in San Francisco, a friend in Portland, and a rabbi in Madison, Wisconsin, all confirmed Manfred’s claim.
Authorities remained unconvinced. Their first denial of Manfred’s entry came on January 31, 1941; he appealed.
While in detention on Angel Island, Manfred found himself in and out of medical care for stomach issues, perhaps linked to stress caused by his situation. Between hospitalizations, in May of 1941, he received word that his parents and sister had immigrated through Ellis Island; an uncle had paid their passage by way of the same German Relief Society for Jewish Refugees. Manfred authored a letter to immigration authorities, explaining that the uncle had taken an identical process to pay for Manfred’s ticket.
Despite this additional evidence, authorities again denied Manfred’s entry on May 7, 1941. It was a devastating ruling: in exchange for eight months of detention and distress, Manfred only received a return ticket to Germany.
On June 3, 1941, while awaiting his return trip, Manfred was released on parole pending a final decision on his case. As per his parole agreement, he traveled to his parents’ home in New York City, registered for the draft, and remembered to alert immigration authorities of any changes in employment or residence.
Then, on June 27, 1941, Manfred received a different kind of news: he had been granted legal entry into the United States.
We can only imagine how Manfred felt – after almost a year in detention, testimonies from eleven individuals in four cities, dialogue between officials on both Angel and Ellis Islands about his situation, and two deportation rulings – to know that he could begin a new life in America. Finally, his case was closed.
Tene Woo Kember is a volunteer with AIISF.
Kelsey Owyang is an intern at AIISF and the great-granddaughter of Angel Island immigrants.
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