Today, the screeching sound of jet wheels on an airport tarmac greets immigrants landing in America. A century ago, it was the clang of the steamship anchor arriving in port.
For hundreds of years, immigrants have come because they believed in the American Dream. They come for a chance to better their lives and the lives of their families. They come to work, to gain an education, to contribute. They come following the millions of immigrants before them – many searching for economic or political freedoms, others seeking their fortune, and some escaping a war-torn homeland.
While early 20th century immigrants crossing the Atlantic and landing on Ellis Island could look up and admire a towering icon of acceptance, Pacific Coast immigrants arriving on Angel Island encountered at the hospital an entryway with two doors – one door for Europeans and a separate door for all others. Built to enforce restrictive immigration laws including the Chinese Exclusion Act and Asiatic Barred Zone Act, the Angel Island Immigration Station stands as a unique reminder of the other American immigration story. Emblematic of a more conflicted American immigration history, the reconstruction of the dual doors in the Immigration Station’s hospital symbolizes our intent to uncover and reopen stories experienced by the other immigrant families in the past century, and the millions arriving from the Philippines, China, India, Vietnam, and elsewhere.
This campaign seeks to Open the Doors: by collecting, exhibiting, and telling those precious personal stories of immigrant dreams and hero voices. These are stories reflecting authentic experiences — some highlighting an era of ethnic segregation, but all these stories putting the immigrant experience of today into perspective with a better understanding of this history of exclusion.
The renovation of this Public Health Service Hospital opens up new space on Angel Island for us to create an innovative Pacific Coast Immigration Center, dedicated to opening the doors we know will invigorate our current thinking on immigration, celebrate the crucial role immigrants play in America, and showcase the legacy these immigrants contribute to America today.