July 31st is the 100th anniversary of Pacific Coast immigration through Angel Island. Angel Island is located in San Francisco Bay and is called the Ellis Island of the West as it served as the first entry for immigrants from the Pacific.
Between 1910 and 1940, the Immigration Station on Angel Island processed immigrants from countries to the west of America’s shores – Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Mexicans, Central and South Americans, Russians, Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Filipinos.
The reception the immigrants of non-European descent received when reaching American shores was unlike that received by European immigrants on Ellis Island.
Upon arrival in San Francisco, the immigrants were separated by nationality. Asians, Russians and Latin Americans were transported to Angel Island for additional processing, while those from Australia, New Zealand and Canada were allowed to disembark.
The Chinese immigrants in particular were subject to additional discrimination. When an influx of Chinese workers brought in to help build America’s rail infrastructure in the 1800s met up with an economic downturn in the 1870s, the immigrants were blamed for taking jobs away from those who were descendents of previous immigration waves from Europe.
In reaction, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 – the first law restricting immigration to the US – was enacted. Many of the Chinese passing through Angel Island Immigration Station during the Period of Great Migration were forced to stay on the island for up to two years in poor conditions.
The island closed as an immigration station in the 1940s and in the 1970s, the Chinese American community lobbied to have the Island recognized for its historical significance. Today the Angel Island Immigration Station is a federally designated National Historic Landmark and the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation is partners with California State Parks and the National Park Service in the effort to preserve, restore and interpret the history of Pacific Coast immigration.
In recognition of the centennial anniversary, a day of events has been planned. Cultural performances including Japanese and Chinese music, a qi gong/tai chi demonstration, numerous readings from books on the immigrant experience, and volunteers dressed in period costumes will be taking place throughout the day. A number of speakers will also be honoring the anniversary and tours are available.
Angel Island State Park is reached by ferry from San Francisco, Oakland or Tiburon.
For more information on the celebration, click here.
Photos from the archives of Angel Island Immigration Station
See the related article below:
WWII Japanese-American internment and The Art of Gaman