Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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IMMIGRANT VOICES

 

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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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Singh, Kehar : Becoming American: The Journey of Early Sikh Pioneer Kehar Singh by AIISF
Year of Arrival 1913

Valarie Kaur is an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights advocate, and interfaith leader who centers her work around the power of storytelling. She is the founder of Groundswell at Auburn Seminary, a non-profit initiative with 100,000+ members that equips people of faith to mobilize for social change. For the last decade, she has led national campaigns responding to hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detention, and solitary confinement. She and her husband and filmmaking partner Sharat Raju made an eleven-minute film about her grandfather Kehar Singh, and recently learned more from AIISF and the National Archives about Mr. Singh's detention on Angel Island in 1913. Valarie will be starting work on a book this year that includes her grandfather's story.

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Der, David : Dr. Der's Story of Immigration and Community Service by Grant Din
Year of Arrival 1939

AIISF supporter Dr. David Der has been named a Local Hero by the Federation of Chinese American and Chinese Canadian Medical Societies (FCMS) for his many years of service to the Asian immigrant community in the greater Oakland area. He left Kaiping, in Guangdong province, in 1939 to escape the war, and passed through Angel Island. Read his story about coming to America, growing up in Oakland, how he got into medicine, and the many community organizations he volunteered with and helped found at FCMS's website.

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Samra, Dalip Singh : From Punjab, India to Angel Island by Samra Family and AIISF
Year of Arrival 1910

Hard work and perseverance will take you anywhere in this world, and Dalip Singh Samra learned that lesson very early.

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Mah, Yel Sen : Pioneer from Cheng Gong by Linda Wing
Year of Arrival 1922

In 1922, Wong Gin Wing brought his wife Mah Yel Sen from China to the United States. They docked at Angel Island after a 30-day trip from Canton with stopovers in Shanghai, Yokohama, and Honolulu. Entering the United States for the third time with a merchant's passport, Wong Gin Wing was immediately released from Angel Island while Mah Yel Sen was detained. He returned the following day and saw many women crowd the second floor windows of the immigration station, eagerly looking for their arriving mates. Wong Gin Wing and the other husbands, previously freed from the detention center returned, bearing dim sum packages for their still detained spouses on "visiting day."

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Gin, Shue : Immigration Story of an American Citizen by Lincoln Chin and May Gin Woon
Year of Arrival 1919

In my earlier story that I posted on “Immigrant Voices” about Gin Soo Dung, I wrote that he was born in San Francisco on January 31, 1881, and taken to China by his parents when he was two years old.  He returned to the U.S. in 1903 at the age of twenty-two.  But seven months later, he returned to China on February 27, 1904.  We have no explanation for his short stay in the U.S.  He may not have liked living in America or he may have wanted to return to China to get married.  We do know from his friends and relatives that he married and had a son named Gin Shue before he died in China in 1906 or 1907.  This story is about how Gin Shue immigrated to the U.S. as a paper son and his repeated encounters with the Immigration Service.

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Xie, Chuang : Imprisonment at Angel Island by Xie Chuang, Introduction by Judy Yung and translation by Charles Egan
Year of Arrival 1923

Introduction by Judy Yung

Xie Chuang 謝創 (aka Xavier Dea) was born in the village of Yijing 以敬, Tangkou 塘口, Kaiping County 開平縣, Guangdong Province 廣東, in 1905, the oldest of five children. His father immigrated to the United States when Xie was six years old. He received an elementary school education and began to participate in revolutionary activities at a young age. Soon after he was married in 1923, he was summoned by his father to join him in America. Leaving behind his wife and the revolutionary cause, Xie said he crossed the Pacific Ocean in tears, only to land at Angel Island. In an interview with a newspaper reporter in 1981, he recalled his stay on Angel Island. “I was detained on Angel Island for over forty days, during which I thought of many things. China was oppressed and had been carved up by foreign aggressors. We Chinese immigrants were just as oppressed. I thought if China were to become strong one day, our status would change. Life at Angel Island reaffirmed my patriotism.”[1]

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Lew, Wing Din : We are proud of him by Robert Lew
Year of Arrival 1930

Wing Din Lew was nine years old when he left his mother in China to travel to America to live with a person he had never met, his father.  Three years later, in 1933, Wing’s father died of cancer.  Wing survived the Great Depression as an orphan and ultimately built a thriving family.

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Jeong, Hop : A Paper Son's Tale by Olivia Pollak with Hop Jeong and Kelsey Owyang
Year of Arrival 1940

Hop was born in Canton, China in 1930, where he lived with his mother, father, and two siblings. When Hop was just ten years old (his paper said he was eight years old), his parents sent him by ship to America, as a member of his grandfather’s paper family.

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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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Jeong, Dick (Duck) : Lucky Duck: Paper Son Dick (Duck) Jeong by Kelsey Owyang
Year of Arrival 1939

As a paper son, Jeong Bak-Ho had certain rules to follow. First, he needed to memorize the contents of the coaching papers his paper father had sent to him; he could use this information to prepare for his interrogations on Angel Island. Then, before the ship docked in America, he had to throw the coaching papers into the sea. This way, he would carry no evidence that he was immigrating under a false identity.

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Ng, Lit : The Adventures of Lit Ng by Roy Chan
Year of Arrival 1939

“In my life, I feel so fortunate. Even if you don't have an education, you still could make it here in the United States. I made it. If I can make it, other people can too.” - Lit Ng

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