Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America | Free Essay Example

Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America

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Topic: Literature


People have been wondering about the history of the prehistoric America and the origin of the immigrants. Found in the archives and historical monuments, the historical development of America and its earliest immigration trends to wide and complex (Lee and Yung 2). The pursuit to understand the unique history of the growth of America and its immigrant process has been unrelenting, although the presumptions concerning American immigration history are diverse and complex. The Chinese, Jews, Japanese, Mexicans, Filipinos, Koreans, and the Russian immigrants of America have a remarkable immigration story (Lee and Yung 2). Although people understand the existence of the present Chinese Americans, the history behind their entry into America lies in the history of the Angel Islands (Lee and Yung 2). This essay intends to analyze the book, ‘Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America’, to explore the American late immigration.

The Angel Island and the Main Concern

After noticing that the immigrants were posing a threat to the American workers, the ancient American leaders imposed strict immigration policies. The United States government was contemptuous about the growing number of illegal immigrants and the officials formed an Angel Island Immigration Station, which later became the global gateway into America (Lee and Yung 1). The Angel Island earmarked the beginning of the mitigations of illegal immigration and the development of the ant-immigration and refugee-control policies in the twentieth century. Behind the Angel Island are the awful stories of the Chinese American immigrants and the painful narratives of other illegal immigrants who had to undergo torment during their chase for the better fortunes in America (Lee and Yung 2). The Angel Island is symbolic because of its tormenting detentions. The station emerged after the Americans realized the dangers of the illegal immigrants. The narratives were diverse and each ethnic group of immigrants has its own fairy tale.

Chapter One: Safeguarding the Golden Gate

The Americans continued feeling insecure about the immigrants who seemed persistent in their move into America. The Angel Island was a detention unit that meant for mitigating illegal immigration and the American government safeguarded this region (Lee and Yung 18). The U.S immigration officials, who operated this detention chamber, interrogated the new immigrants with an ardent hope that they would manage to deport the immigrants through severe probing plans (Lee and Yung 16). The immigrant inspectors provided obscure questions and restricted any discussions and conversations amongst the detainees within the chambers to frustrate the illiterate Chinese immigrants who barely knew anything about their aims in America. Lee and Yung assert that the interrogators questioned the Chinese immigrants about their family histories and the Chinese American villages, something that the new immigrants were unaware about (21). The men remained separated from their couples through different superior detention units.

Although all the passengers who passed through the Pacific Coast of San Francisco underwent these tormenting detentions, the aspects of favoritism and racial prejudice were pervasive. Lee and Yung (25) claim that whereas the detentions and interrogations were mandatory to all the immigrants who came via the passenger ships of the Pacific Coast of America, favoritism was evident. The Asian passengers from Korea, Japan, Russia, China, and Mexico faced some bias compared to their European counterparts (Lee and Yung 31). In the midst of these detentions in the Angel Island there existed several inhumane practices and torture against the Chinese and the other Asians. Compared to the slightly favored European immigrants, the Asian immigrants could not feed well, could not access the sanitation facilities, and could not argue about the mandatory medical examinations imposed on them for checkups against the contagious infections (Lee and Yung 29). Other Asian immigrants also faced various racial discriminations.

Chapter Two: Several Oppressive Regulations

The American government knew that safeguarding its territories from the illegal immigrants and refugees would essentially require a biased legal approach. According to Lee and Yung (69), the immigration golden gate referred to as the Angel Island was a chamber full of oppressive regulations and policies that frustrated the Chinese immigrants. America resorted to the humiliating regulations with optimism that these regulations would oppress the immigrants and refugees and reduce their augmenting population (Lee and Yung 73). The government enacted racist immigration policies such as the Immigration Act of 1924, which predominantly formed the basis for discrimination against the Chinese immigrants. The Immigration Act of 1924 allowed only a certain percentage of the Chinese immigrants to enter the United States (Lee and Yung 82). The Immigration Act of 1924 was a quota regulation that allowed only an annual quota of 105 Chinese immigrants to visit the United States on limited conditions.

The Immigration Act of 1924 oppressed the Chinese vessels, which transported the Chinese aliens illegally and the officials used the stipulations of the U.S. immigration laws to frustrate the ship-owners (Lee and Yung 89). Apart from the transportation quotas, the U.S government reinforced the Chinese Exclusion Act that allowed only the merchants, diplomats, clergymen, and the teachers to visit America (Lee and Yung 85. This Chinese Exclusion Act empowered the U.S government to undertake the mandatory medical checkups, the unethical credential evaluations, the forceful detentions, repressive interrogations, and some biased treatments against the Chinese immigrants. The due process of law was the order of accepting the immigrants to traverse across the Angel Island and such situations paved a way for the U.S inspectors to formulate fake credentials (Lee and Yung 92). The class, race, and the gender-based laws forced the Chinese to improve their English literacy levels, separate with their marriage partners, and despair their American dreams.

Chapter Three: Anguish and Anxiety

The Japanese were part of the humiliating stories discussed in the Angel Island. Being a family of the Chinese people, segregation, discrimination, and intimidation practices against the Japanese in the immigrant prisons located at the Angel Island were inevitable (Lee and Yung 95). Tension, anguish, and anxiety were increasing amongst the Chinese in China, those who were still traversing the Pacific Coast towards America, and those who had already secured ghettoes in San Francisco. Something that brought tension between the incarcerated Chinese was the brutal investigations of the American authorities imposed against the already settled Japanese. The U.S immigration officials commissioned a plan that evacuated the Siberians, the Japanese, and the East Indians, who had already debarked in San Francisco (Lee and Yung 97). The relocation of some Japanese and Chinese from their settlements into the insular facilities to begin a fresh interrogation escalated the agony, the resentment, and the anxiety among the Chinese immigrants.

This unforeseen circumstance left the immigrants confused, oppressed, and frightened, not knowing the next approach that the American officials would instigate. As the laws of segregating the Asian communities strengthened, the probability of facing detention remained determined based on the individual’s origin (Lee and Yung 101). The increasing detention rate of the Asian immigrants was a clear indication that the target behind the quotas and detentions was the Asian foreigners. Unknowingly, the incumbent commissioner Hart North had planned a malicious deal of safeguarding the Japanese and the Indians, and oppressing the Chinese. Since the Chinese look remarkably related to the Japanese, the commissioner would steal and use the Chinese credentials to facilitate illegal entries for the Japanese people (Lee and Yung 103). Coupled with several other Chinese exclusion laws, the newcomers and the already settled Chinese lived in a great fear for the trepidations that would befall them.

Chapter Four: Homeland Obstacles and the U.S Blockades

The resentment between the ethnicities was increasing even as the immigration policies and the physical detention camps never seemed to cease. The aspiring Chinese immigrants had to rethink about their migrating intentions and had to remain physically and mentally prepared before they could decide to cross (Lee and Yung 112). For those who managed to acquire entries into the American land, the memories of the detention and the urge to leverage the grueling probing and discrimination that other Chinese were undergoing was inexorable. The dungeon and the hostile inspectors made the dreams of the Chinese about the beautiful America seem musty and unfeasible. Lee and Yung state that the Chinese exclusions in the detention cells within the Angel Island were terrible moments considering that most of the immigrants were eluding from the hostile political environment back in their motherland (113). The Chinese immigrants wondered how they would survive the discriminatory gateway processes.

The exclusion laws oppressed ship-owners who were the only source of refuge for escaping the politically hostile Chinese motherland. Back at home, the Chinese fathers had left their families in poverty, solitude, and antagonism (Lee and Yung 123). The newcomers who anticipated seeing their American dreams happen remained bewildered as to whether they should abandon their American aspirations of better lives or return to their hostile motherland. The detainees who were facing discrimination at the prisons feared death from hunger, death from the contagious infections, and the uncertainties from the escalating trepidations. The nervous Chinese American immigrants were uncertain about their future in America where the oppressive regulations and the chauvinistic natives were eyeing to frustrate the defenseless Chinese. Oppressing regulations, mandatory seclusions, open favoritism, authoritarian leadership, and the bans and quotas, made the Chinese uncomfortable (Lee and Yung 128). The American future for the Chinese was bleak, and their past was full of resentment.

Chapter Five: The Homeless People

The quandary of settling in America was always endless for all the immigrant minorities who knew about the existence of the Angel Island and the problems of the inner cities within the American borders. Nonetheless, the Chinese pursuit for evading the trepidations was not about to end because even after securing some few rights to settle in America, trouble was still looming (Lee and Yung 162). A reprieve came when the Korean refugee students awakened the Asian immigrants to fight for their rights and freedom. The Korean art of designing, writing, and carving attractive poems was a gateway to some diminutive pleasure and freedom among the Asian refugees who vented their frustrations and anger via the poems (Lee and Yung 167). Their resentment, oppression, loneliness, despair, and homesickness permeated through the detention walls as the poems contained emotive messages concerning the suffering families of the immigrants in the politically frustrated China and the expensive American journey.

Both the Korean and Japanese wrote these sorrowful poems using a classical Chinese poetry style. Such mournful poems brought about some unique reprieve and liberation for the Chinese immigrants who were increasingly facing torments (Lee and Yung 169). Sorrow filled the refugee administrators who served in these detention facilities and the U.S government developed a commission of inquiry to investigate the claims of the Chinese immigrants. Coupled with several Chinese movements and petitions against the oppressive administrators, the government saw the need to ban the corrupted San Francisco law organization and lay-off some immigration officials (Lee and Yung 171). The recommendations of the acting commissioner to relocate the insular facility, renovate its structures, and improve the welfare of the Chinese immigrants appeared to restore the shuttered Chinese survival dreams. Towards the 1940s, the U.S government finally ascribed to the cries of the Chinese immigrants and relocated them to the Silver Avenue.

Chapter Six: Freedom and Opportunity

Now that some immigrants had perished, others had foregone their American dreams, and others were still in the insular facilities and some scattered around the Chinatown ghettoes, the fight still commenced. The population of the Chinese Americans in America had already dwindled from about 8.7 percent to almost 0.6 percent (Lee and Yung 202). Discrimination was still pervasive as the U.S government downgraded majority of the Chinese to the economically non-competitive areas and forced them to settle around the Chinatown ghettoes. For the better part of the 1940s, racial discrimination seemed to shift from the Chinese to the Japanese as the global political patterns focused on the incoming world war (Lee and Yung 209). During this moment, the Russian and Jews were gradually flocking into America. The Russians and the Jews were also approaching America through the Angel Island and they faced similar atrocities, although at a lower tussle as compared to the Chinese.

The Russians and the Jews were escaping political prosecutions and religious animosities from their motherlands. The Americans partially favored the Jews and the Russians because they considered them as Whites. Therefore, the Russians and the Jews who fled away from the Bolshevik Revolutions, considered the Angel Island as a safe haven because the detainees amalgamated well with the American natives (Lee and Yung 205). A few Jews and the Russians could spend three or four days in the dungeons and the majority of them received quick clearances at the Angel Island. Considered as the European refugees, the Jews could enjoy meals of the Passover Fist in superior rooms within the immigration station. The U.S immigration officials freed the Jews and the Russian refugees hastily on flimsy excuses they presented before the officials (Lee and Yung 207). All the two immigration waves of the 1920s and the 1938s seemed slightly favorable for the Russians and the Jews.

Chapter Seven and Eight: Mexicans and the Filipinos

The legacy of the Angel Island also encompasses the story of the Mexicans who sought refuge in America. From 1900-1930, several Mexicans migrated into America through the north, using the railway located within the U.S Mexico border, while others came via the Angel Island (Lee and Yung 249). Mexican immigrants fled away from the political hostilities and violence that resulted from the Mexican Revolution. Popularly known as the El Notre immigration, the Mexican refugees and the Filipinos faced the humiliating quotas from the American government. Due to the economic downturn of America, about one million Mexicans, including the children with an American background, faced embarrassing deportations (Lee and Yung 255). The American immigration policies strengthened, but the immigration officers could only impose voluntary repatriations for the Mexicans and the Filipinos. The Tidings-McDuffie Act imposed various sanctions and quotas to the increasing Filipino and the Mexican immigrants although sometimes on voluntary repatriation basis.

The 1935 Repatriation Act brought some unique favoritism that became eminent among the Philippine refugees. Although the Mexican Exclusion Laws were clear and active against the Mexicans who enjoyed some unique favors from the U.S immigration officers, the 1935 Repatriation Act gave the Filipinos an exclusive chance to repatriate back to Philippine via the Angel Island (Lee and Yung 261). During all this time of the repatriation of the immigrants, the American Immigration Department was still keen about the returning of the refugees back to their homes. A thorough scrutiny against most of the Asian immigrants was the order of the process even as other immigrants enjoyed some repatriation favors from the immigration officers. The repatriations of the European refugees such as the Jews, the Filipinos, and the Mexicans, were a little bit comfortable (Lee and Yung 267). The returning Chinese immigrants still faced various discriminations in their repatriation process back to their politically aggressive homeland.

Chapter Nine: The Angel Land Legacy

The tormenting memories of entering into America through the Angel Island were lucid in most of the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Jews, Filipino, Russian, and the Mexican immigrants (Lee and Yung 300). To preserve these historical occasions that were noteworthy, the American emigrants embarked on the efforts to make the Angel Island a legendary place in the American immigration history. After the immigration station of the Angel Island closed down in the 1940s, people seemed to forego the tormenting events and moments of the grueling interrogations and racial prejudices. However, during the beginning of the 1970s, two distinct groups of the detainees who suffered the atrocities within the Angel Island formed a group of community activists to recover the historical legacy of the Angel Island (Lee and Yung 308). The U.S government reconsidered their plight of making the Angel Island a national historic milestone. Even as the debates concerning the immigration discrimination continue, the Angel Island remains imperative.


Although people now recognize the Angel Island dungeon as the historical monuments of the United States, the fairy tales behind the immigration stories in this immigration station still linger in some living victims. The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Jews, Filipino, Russian, and the Mexican immigrants who sought economic improvement, and those who fled away from the political animosities in their homelands have some long fairy tales to explain. Over one hundred years since the Angel Island first opened; this insular immigration station remains to be a remarkable historical feature that reminds all the American immigrants about the most tormenting moments of their immigration into the American soil. Even as the American government continues to struggle to curb the new forms of immigration, the memories of immigration are still fresh in most of the surviving immigrants who experienced these moments or those who at least heard about the Angel Island.

Works Cited

Lee, Erika, and Judy Yung. Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, London: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.