Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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IMMIGRANT VOICES

 

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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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Uratsu, Marvin : Marvin Uratsu by Olivia Pollak, Interviewer: Dew Ruiz
Year of Arrival Born in U.S.

Childhood in Japan

Marvin’s father immigrated to the United States before Marvin was born, entering not through Angel Island, but though Seattle. Marvin estimates that his mother came to the United States in 1916, and his parents were married in 1917. That same year, Marvin’s older brother was born. Marvin was born eight years later, in 1925, in Sacramento.

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Kawai, Michi : A Day at Angel Island by Michi Kawai
Year of Arrival 1915

AIISF logoEditor Judy Yung's Note: Japanese immigrants were the second largest group after the Chinese to be processed at the Angel Island Immigration Station.  Approximately 90,000 Japanese were admitted through Angel Island between 1910 and 1940.  Because the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907 barred the emigration of Japanese laborers to the United States, the new arrivals consisted mainly of parents, wives, and children of Japanese residents.  In contrast to the Chinese experience at Angel Island, the Japanese had an easier time.  Armed with passports issued by the Japanese government and birth and marriage certificates proving their right to immigrate, the overwhelming majority were processed and admitted within a day or two. Less than 1 percent were ever excluded or deported.  It is probably because their stays at Angel Island were short that few have left written or oral accounts of their detention experience. The following description of Japanese life at Angel Island is thus rare.  It was excerpted from two works by Michi Kawai, general secretary of the YWCA of Japan from 1912 to 1926: My Lantern (Tokyo: Kyo Bun Kwan, 1939) and "A Day at Angel Island," Joshi Seinenkai, September 1915, translated by John Akiyama.  Kawai made three visits to Angel Island in 1915 while in the United States to attend the YWCA National Training School in New York and to investigate the condition of Japanese women on the Pacific Coast.  A graduate of Bryn Mawr College and founder of Keisen Girls School in Tokyo, Kawai was a strong advocate of women's education.  It was largely through her efforts that the YWCA in Japan and in the United States became directly involved in preparing and assisting Japanese women to adapt to their new lives in America.


 

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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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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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Wong, Li Keng : Li Keng Gee-Wong: Educator, Storyteller, National Treasure by AIISF
Year of Arrival 1933

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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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Singh Sarabha, Kartar : Student and Revolutionist by Judy Yung
Year of Arrival 1912

Kartar Singh, a Punjabi Sikh, was born in Sarabha village, Ludhiana district, in 1896. His father died when he was six and his mother when he was thirteen.  He was raised by his grandfather, a farmer.  Kartar attended the village school for five years and graduated from a missionary high school in 1911.  He was attending Revenshaw College in Orissa when he got caught up in the nationalist movement to free India from British rule.  He decided to go to America to aid the cause.  He was then seventeen years old.

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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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Singh, Hazara : Accountant Turned Farmer by Harjit K. and Hardeep K. Gosal
Year of Arrival 1913

Editor’s Note:  Twenty-one year old Hazara Singh “Janda” arrived at the Angel Island Immigration Station in 1913. He told immigration inspectors that he had worked as an accountant in India and was now coming to the United States to study mechanical engineering at a university in Berkeley. He brought $90 in gold and assured inspectors that his father would be able to support him in his studies. The inspectors were impressed by Singh’s appearance, and he was admitted into the country as a student after nine days in detention on Angel Island.  Some of that time was spent at the hospital “under observation” for trachoma.  Nearly ninety years after Hazara Singh arrived on Angel Island, his great-grandnieces, sisters Harjit K. and Hardeep K. Gosal, researched and wrote the following family history.  They found that while Singh was ultimately successful in getting admitted into the country, his time on Angel Island, and specifically the harsh treatment that immigrants received at the hospital, left a strong impression on him.

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