Angel Island California: Ellis Island Of The West

Angel Island was the Ellis Island immigration station of the west.

From the thirty year period from 1910 to 1940, Chinese immigrants who sought to enter the United States were, as a rule, detained at the California immigration station known as Angel Island. Their time at Angel Island was not pleasant, and was in many cases upsetting. Most people in the United States are not aware of this chapter of our country's history.

Indeed, although many Americans today have heard of the Ellis Island immigration station in New York, if ten people from around our country were asked to tell what happened at Angel Island (or even where it is located), it is a fair bet that not even one person will have heard of it, or know what happened there. For the record, Angel Island is located near San Francisco, California.

In the early part of the twentieth century, immigrants from all countries were welcome to enter the United States at Angel Island. As it turned out though, the majority of those who came through that port were Chinese people. Most of the Chinese who came through this station were first detained, and then interrogated in a lengthy and frightening process. These people were asked trivial questions that they could not possibly know the response to, were asked these same meaningless questions over and over, chiefly to humiliate and scare them. Further, the questions were usually asked in English of people who had no command of that language. The Chinese immigrants were made to feel like unwanted criminals, and only because they wanted to enter the United States and make it their new home. Many immigrants were detained for long periods of time, most for two weeks but some for as long as a year and a half. During this period of detainment, the Chinese immigrants were separated from their families, and treated unfairly and poorly. Family members had no idea where their loved ones were. The Chinese were detained for a variety of reasons, to include racial ignorance and the fear that the Chinese would take jobs away from American workers.

Some of the Chinese who were kept at Angel Island etched poems into the stone walls, detailing their feelings of despair and lamenting their terrible plight. They were confused, and in many cases did not know if they would ever be set free to go back to their home or to enter the United States. As they sat in their holding areas, they wondered what they had done to elicit such painfully cruel actions by the American people. Those who were so inclined wrote of these feelings in an open and honest way, and these writings were only recently found and made public, a sobering reminder of man's inhumanity to his fellow man.

Angel Island is still open for tourists, and is a museum that is well worth the time to look through. The area is similar to the way that it was at the time that the Chinese immigrants went through, and visitors are able to see the actual etched poetry created by the immigrants.

© High Speed Ventures 2011