A Visit to Immigration Station on Angle Island

On May 18, CALA NCA chapter organized a trip  to visit the Immigration Station of Angel Island, which is called “the Ellis Island of the West” and is a historical landmark of Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.     
cala-nca group pic
Back to the early 1900’s, the Angel Island Immigration Station was the  processing center for over 175,000 Chinese immigrants when Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) built a facility on a remote island to prevent Chinese immigrants from communicating with those in San Francisco, isolate immigrants with communicable diseases.  Most of the Chinese were detained on Angel Island for years.  Some detainees expressed their feelings in poetry carved into the wooden walls of the detention barracks.  In 1940, a fire destroyed the administration building.   On the site, a museum was established and reopened to the public in February 2009.   President Barack Obama, on the day of his inauguration declared January 21 as national Angel Island Day in honor of all the immigrants who suffered long periods of detention before they were admitted to America.

This trip was the continual effort of our NCA chapter’s long standing goal of informing our members of early Chinese American history.  In year 2010, Judy Yung, Professor Emeritus and Librarian of UC Santa Cruz, the co-author of Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, was invited by our chapter to talk about her new book “Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America” at San Leandro Public Library. It was well attended by our CALA members and general public.  Inspired by Judy’s talk, our Chapter has been planning to organize our members to visit this historical site.

In recent years, there were a series of events dedicated to honoring Him Mark Lai, an internationally renowned activist and historian who passed away in 2009.  Him Mark Lai was the first scholar that collected comprehensively the poems carved in the wooden walls of Angel Island Immigration Station and published them.  He was regarded as “Dean of Chinese American History”.   One San Francisco Public Library branch was named after him.   His personal collection was housed at the Ethnic Studies Library, UC Berkeley, and has been benefiting many Chinese American historians.  This important heritage of Him Mark Lai in our San Francisco Bay Area also encouraged us to advance this program.

This May, we successfully organized a guided tour of the Angel Island Immigration museum. Through preserved Immigration Barracks and recreated bunk rooms and numerous manuscripts, our members had a glimpse into the life of our early Chinese immigrants regards to  the sufferings and hardship they had been through.  

There are three Chinese visiting scholars joined us.  Dr. Ailing Xiao, Associate Professor of the Shaanxi Normal University and Dr. Yajie Zheng, Associate Professor of the Huaqiao University (Xiamen) are two visiting scholars of U.C. Berkeley.  Ms. Wenyi Ding is a visiting scholar at San Jose State University.

cala-nca group tour

Angel Island is a great place to visit.  If you plan to visit and need more information, please contact the administrator.



Shu-Hua Liu

on behalf of Northern California Chapter