Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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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, 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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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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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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Chong, Gim Suey : Gim Suey Chong: Our Quiet Man by Raymond Douglas Chong with Michael George Chong
Year of Arrival 1932

HOYPING

on
Gim Suey Chong with Grandfather in Hoyping.

Our father, Gim Suey Chong, was our quiet man. He was a 4th generation sojourner to Gold Mountain, America. He and his forefathers were from Yung Lew Gong, Village of the Dragon, in the heart of Hoyping near the magnificent Pearl River Delta of Kwangtung Province of China, southwest of Hong Kong. Gim was born in the 9th gray brick house on the 6th narrow alley on December 26, 1922, Year of the Dog, to father, Moi Chung, and mother, Cun Chuen Wong.  He lived and studied in the poor farm village. Moi Chung was a 3rd generation sojourner who had arrived in San Francisco through Angel Island Immigration Station in 1912 as a student.  In 1923, after Gim’s birth, he left China for Boston. Gin's grandfather, Hoy Lun Chung was a 2nd generation sojourner and also the Village chief. He was an entrepreneur and had gambling hall and opium den in Boston Chinatown. Bein Yiu Chung, his great grandfather, the 1st generation sojourner, was the pioneer at Gold Mountain. In 1865, he arrived in San Francisco to help build the Transcontinental Railroad. Gim lived in the ancient village founded in 1466, with its ancestral hall for school and recreation and its Diaolou, Castle in the Sky, as sentinel. With other boys, he roamed the river glen of rice fields and banana groves at the foot of Mount of the Eight Immortals near Hill of the Flying Swan, ancestral tombs.

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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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Wong, Shee : Teacher, Mother, Wife by Larisa Proulx
Year of Arrival 1922

On November 16, 1922, Wong Shee, a 33-year-old schoolteacher, mother, and wife, arrived in Hong Kong with her 14-year-old son. Leaving their village in China was the first leg of their journey to be with her husband and his father in America. After about ten days in Hong Kong, the mother and son boarded a ship bound for San Francisco.  Her husband, a businessman who operated a meat market in Chinatown, had an attorney prepare their paperwork and awaited their arrival in America. Ahead of them was a journey that required hopeful determination. This is their immigration story.

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Ang, Kenneth : The Interrogation: In the Matter of Ang Nguey Tone by Kathy Ang
Year of Arrival 1938

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Sue Tin, Susie : Unbound from Tradition - Susie Sue Tin's Adventure from Australia to California via China by Cathy Huang and Sue Pon
Year of Arrival 1923

From the Orient to Oceania

Oh, to be a young woman in the 1920’s, unbound from tradition. This is the story of Susie Sue Tin, unbound, who journeyed from Australia to California to marry, in her own words, “for the adventure.”

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