Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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IMMIGRANT VOICES

 

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Adler, Isaak and Mathilde : Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria at Angel Island in 1940 by Katie Quan
Year of Arrival 1940

One of the lesser known chapters in the history of the Angel Island Immigration Station concerns the arrival of Jewish refugees who left Nazi-held territories in 1939 and 1940.  Their journeys took them across Russia into China and Japan, where they boarded ships headed for San Francisco.  AIISF came upon this story because Alice Edelstein Steiner recounted her story to researchers in 2001.  Judy Yung and Erika Lee feature her family's story in the forthcoming book, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (Oxford University Press).

During this centennial year, we also mark the 70th anniversary of several hundred Jewish immigrants who had the good fortune to have relatives and sponsors in the United States who aided their emigration.  As one reads the immigration files of these immigrants, one is struck by the desperate situations cast upon Jews under the Nazi regime.  They were stripped of their jobs and livelihoods; they were forced to abandon all their property and leave all assets behind.  But they kept something even more precious - their dignity and their lives.

AIISF would like to learn more about their lives. If any of you reading these short profiles knows descendants of these families, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Allende, Isabel : The Unexpected Immigrant by William Wong
Year of Arrival 1987

Author of best-selling books such as The House of Spirits, Isabel Allende recounts the circumstances that led to her unexpected settlement in northern California and her eventual U.S. citizenship.  Sprinkled liberally with amusing observations, Allende’s discussion with journalist William Wong also delves into the tragic circumstances of her daughter Paula’s illness and death.  Allende honors her daughter’s memory through a foundation dedicated to needy immigrants.

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Ang, Mabel Lim : Mabel Lim Ang - In Utero on Angel Island by Kathy Ang
Year of Arrival 1924

In 2009, after Mabel had passed away, our family obtained the Freedom of Information Act A-files on Mabel’s mother Soto Shee. Within those files were details of their immigration experience that were previously unknown to us. It is a story of survival and hope.

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Anthony, Eric : From Malaysia to the United States by Thea A
Year of Arrival 1981

When many people think of immigration experiences to the United States, the most prominent aspects that come to mind are stories filled with challenges and heartbreak. Portes and Rumbaut write in their book Immigrant America that an immigrant's move "is commonly portrayed as a one-way escape from hunger, want, and persecution” (Portes & Rumbaut 2006:13). When I began my discussion with Eric Anthony, who immigrated to the United States from Malaysia, he warned me that his story was not one of these, that in fact, his experience was precisely the opposite. “I’m one of those successful immigrant stories. I’ve had very good luck. And hard work, a combination. A lot of kind people have helped me in so many ways, with intelligent thoughts and kind words, and have always guided me. I’ve always felt that I was the lucky one.” What I found through interviewing him, however, is that his success has been a direct result of his amazingly positive mindset, which he has been able to maintain even when faced with challenges many people are never confronted with throughout their entire lives.

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Ariki, Jim : Jim Ariki by AIISF
Year of Arrival Born in U.S.

California College of the Arts graduate film student Robert Gomez recently profiled Masayuki "Jim" Ariki and Li Keng Wong for a video installation in the Immigration Station barracks on Angel Island. Sadly, Jim passed away soon after the interview, on January 21, 2013. He was born Jan. 20, 1923 in Fresno, and went to Japan with his family when he was two years old. He returned alone in 1937 and worked in the Delta until he met his future wife, Asa Tsuboi. They married in 1941, were interned in Poston, Arizona during World War II, and for the next 58 years, they raised a family and enjoyed numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His story is profiled in Erika Lee and Judy Yung's Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America and you can view the 8-minute video here. See more of Robert Gomez Hernandez's work on his website.

 

When Each Day Is Through : Jim Ariki from Robert Gomez Hernandez on Vimeo.

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Bagai, Vaishno Das  : “Bridges Burnt Behind”: The Story of Vaishno Das Bagai by Rani Bagai
Year of Arrival 1915

My grandfather Vaishno Das Bagai was born in Peshawar, India, in 1891, the younger of two sons. He was from a high-class family, well educated and an early supporter of India’s freedom and independence from the British. He was engaged to my grandmother Kala when they were about three or four years old, according to Indian custom then.

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Berek, Eva Schott : Incredible Journey by Reese Erlich
Year of Arrival 1940

The yellowing old photos show a sprightly young woman of 18 taking a sea voyage to San Francisco. It could be any vacation photo from 1940. But the smiling face and sea breezes belie the harrowing journey taken by Jewish refugee Eva Schott.

She and her family fled Berlin in 1940, among the last Jews able to leave Nazi Germany. They took a train through the USSR and China, and then sailed on an ocean liner from Yokohama to the U.S. immigration station on Angel Island.

While historians have explored the long and often unjust treatment of Japanese and Chinese on Angel Island, much less is known about the thousands of Russians, Eastern Europeans and Jews who came to the U.S. via Asia. Angel Island immigration records show some 500 Jews arrived on ships from Japan and China from 1939-40.

 

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Blum, Bertha : Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria at Angel Island by Katie Quan
Year of Arrival 1940

One of the lesser known chapters in the history of the Angel Island Immigration Station concerns the arrival of Jewish refugees who left Nazi-held territories in 1939 and 1940.  Their journeys took them across Russia into China and Japan, where they boarded ships headed for San Francisco.  AIISF came upon this story because Alice Edelstein Steiner recounted her story to researchers in 2001.  Judy Yung and Erika Lee feature her family's story in the forthcoming book, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (Oxford University Press).

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Campos, David : A Champion Through Education by David Tan
Year of Arrival 1984

Through his hard work and commitment to striving for the best in education, David Campos is now a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing District 9.  Yet, Mr. Campos came from humble beginnings. The following  article examines David’s life and journey from Guatemala to America as an undocumented immigrant and explores how his experiences shaped his views as Supervisor today.

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Chandra, Kanta : So Close But, So Far by Liana Belloni
Year of Arrival 1910

My grandmother Kanta Chandra was born in Delhi, India, in 1896, the oldest daughter and fourth child of six.  After the death of her parents and to avoid being sent to live with a dreadful uncle, five of the children decided to run away to America with what money their father had left them.  The only place they knew in the U.S. was San Francisco because their oldest brother had attended the University of California, Berkeley, a few years earlier.  To save money, they reported younger ages to secure tickets at children fare.  On a summer’s day in June 1910, they boarded a ship in Calcutta not knowing what they would find or where life would take them, just knowing that they wanted to stay together as a family.

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Chen, Joan : Actress, Director, and Immigrant by William Wong
Year of Arrival 1981

Internationally acclaimed actress/director Joan Chen (Chen Gong) immigrated to the U.S. at age 19 in 1981.  In this special article for AIISF, Joan Chen tells journalist William Wong about her years as a student in the U.S. and her early career as a Hollywood actress before her breakthrough in the Academy-award winning film, The Last Emperor.

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Chin, Shee : One Step Closer by Jack G, Fourth Grader
Year of Arrival 1920

Teacher's Note

This piece was written with the purpose of bringing to life and then preserving a family's immigration story, and it was written by a fourth grader.  Sitting at a table in my fourth grade classroom, Jack worked quietly and independently on this story for several weeks in December of 2013.  The whole class was given the task of investigating how their families came to California, which is a Palo Alto fourth grade tradition called the "California Passport Project."  Jack took the assignment very seriously, envisioning and revising his piece with patience and care that is exceptional for writers his age.  After poring over his drafts, covering sheets of looseleaf in blue and then red ink, Jack sat at one of our classroom computers, continuing to examine and reflect, improve and perfect his work.  The result was so beyond what other students wrote in its narrative quality that when I read it, I quickly called Jack over to express my admiration and amazement at what he had created.  He took bare facts that most kids regurgitated sequentially and crafted a story that is lively, engaging, and descriptive.  I believe this piece captures an important piece of American history, and it captures a powerful moment in the development of a fourth grade writer.  I hope you enjoy and value this story as much as I did.

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Chin, Young Dock : The Story of My Paper Brother, Chin Young Dock by Lincoln Chin
Year of Arrival 1930

Our family was so desperate during the Great Depression that my parents decided, with grandfather’s encouragement, that Mom would take three of her four children to Macao. Four family members leaving San Francisco would relieve the pressure on Pop to provide for his family.  In Macao we would be taken care of by Grandmother.  She had invested in a company in Shanghai and was living very well on the returns of her investment.  She had a two-story house at Ho Laun Yuen #3 Main Street in Macao.  She had servant girls working for her and she had a chef who cooked for the entire household.  This would not be just a temporary visit to China. The long-term plan was for us children to go to school and grow up in Macao.

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