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Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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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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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, 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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