Eliseo Felipe arrived in 1933 and was a farmworker. In 1940, upon returning from a visit to the Philippines, he was detained for two days.
After the Philippines became a U.S. territory in 1898, Filipinos were considered U.S. nationals and more than 150,000 Filipinos migrated to Hawaii and the continental U.S. Neither immigration restrictions nor lengthy examinations and interrogations on Angel Island awaited them. Filipinos did not need passports or other documentation to enter the country.
The Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 granted commonwealth status to the Philippines and the promise of independence after a ten-year waiting period. At that time, however, the status of Filipinos changed from U.S. nationals to “aliens subject to the immigration laws of the U.S.” Immigration from the Philippines was limited to fifty persons a year. Returning residents and U.S. citizens were subjected to some of the same interrogations and detentions that applied to other Asian immigrants, and Filipinos began to be detained on Angel Island in more significant numbers.
Filipinos in the U.S. also became targets of government-sponsored repatriation programs after 1935 in which the immigration station on Angel Island played a key role. Angel Island immigration officials were key architects and enforcers of the Filipino repatriation program, and the immigration station served as the detention center for repatriates on their way back to the Philippines.
From 1928 to 1940, there were 583 Filipinos who traveled through Angel Island; 73 percent were held for less than one week. Researchers will be interested to know that there are 362 case files of Filipino immigrants on file at the National Archives and Records Administration’s San Bruno office.
AIISF commissioned a video to tell the story of Eliseo Felipe, who first arrived in the U.S. in 1933 and was a farmworker for many years, returned to the Philippines for a visit. When he returned in 1940 after the Philippines’ change in status, he was surprised to be questioned by government officials and detained for two days on the island.
To see the video where he tells his story, at the age of 99, visit this site:
We invite you to tell your family’s stories as well on our Immigrant Voices website.