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Curator Seeking Angel Island Immigration Papers - Part I


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Posted by Raymond Seid (72.234.176.42) on April 08, 2007 at 06:35:35:

Park asks for documents detailing Angel Island's hostile welcome
By Jessie Mangaliman
Mercury News
San Jose Mercury News
Article Launched:04/05/2007 01:36:01 AM PDT

The curators of Angel Island Station are asking for public help in finding genuine government documents called certificates of identity - a precursor of the American green card, or permanent resident card - that were issued to Chinese immigrants who were detained on Angel Island from 1910 to 1940.

The dollar-bill sized certificates - some of them handwritten, stamped and with a photograph - will be photo-engraved on a granite table that will be the main feature of a permanent exhibit, "The Interrogation Table," where all immigrants were questioned upon arrival.

Located in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Angel Island, the "Ellis Island of the West," was the first stop for immigrants coming from Asia across the Pacific. But unlike its Eastern seaboard counterpart, Angel Island was a detention center patrolled by armed guards, a place where the government enforced the Chinese Exclusion Act, a law that strictly limited the number of Chinese immigrants entering the United States. A million immigrants from China, Japan, Russia, India, Mexico and New Zealand came through Angel Island.

The building where the Interrogation Table used to be no longer exists, but in its footprint, a 4-by-8-foot table will be placed to illustrate for visitors the hostile welcome that immigrants from Asia received upon arriving in San Francisco.

"They were asked all sorts of questions: `Why are you coming?' `How long are you going to be here?' " said Erika Gee, education director at Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation. "They were looking to exclude people, in particular the Chinese."

Faded memories

Hop Jeong, a retired accountant from San Lorenzo, was 10 when he arrived at Angel Island in 1940, alone, to join his grandfather and a younger brother who arrived two months earlier from Canton.

He does not remember the interrogation. But 10 years ago, wanting to pass on personal history to his children and grandchildren, Jeong obtained records of his arrival - and his interrogation - from the U.S. National Archives in San Bruno. There were four pages of questions.

"They asked me very silly questions," he said. "How many windows did we have in our house? Where did everybody sleep? Where is the market? How do you get there?"

(see Part II for continuation of article)



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