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Curator Seeking Angel Island Immigration Papers - Part II

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Posted by Raymond Seid ( on April 08, 2007 at 06:39:33:

Jeong was detained two months at Angel Island, but he has little memory of his time. According to historical record and the personal accounts of detainees, it was an unwelcoming place where immigrants were housed in cold, crowded, prison-like barracks.

"What I do remember is looking at the lights on land across the water," he said. "I thought, `That's where I'm going.'"

Last spring, Jeong took his grandchildren to the island, now a state park. Learning about the armed guards who kept watch of the detained immigrants on the island, his grandchildren remarked, "Like a prison," Jeong said.

Jeong's certificate of identity will be part of the exhibit.

Barry Wong, a 45-year-old San Francisco firefighter, grew up knowing nothing about his family's journey from China and their time on Angel Island.

"A lot of things dealing with my family history were repressed," Wong said. "They really just tried to fit in."

But Wong has since learned that his fraternal grandfather was one of the lucky few: He had been conferred citizenship status. He returned to China in 1924 to fetch his wife, and his son, Wong's father. They spent a few days on Angel Island, and were issued the certificates of identity.

"There were always questions in my mind about how they migrated," Wong said. "After my father passed away, I found all these documents and I started thinking, gee, how can I share this history?"

Building up exhibit

Wong has given a copy of his father's certificate of identity to Angel Island, as part of the "Interrogation Table" exhibit.

Gee is looking for at least 30 certificates to scan. Transcripts of the interrogation will also be engraved on the table. On one side, there will be two granite chairs, to represent the inspector and interpreter. There will be another chair on the other side of the table, to represent the arriving immigrant.

The station is closed for renovation. Restoration of the remaining buildings on the island has been under way since 2004. Gee said the construction of exhibits is part of a larger project to tell the story of the island and the story of immigrants who were detained there. The station is expected to open in January 2008.

"We want to convey to visitors what happened to immigrants at the station," she said, "and this is a good point to begin that story."


Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation is seeking certificates of identities of Chinese immigrants who came through Angel Island, as well as documents brought by other immigrants. For more information, call AIISF at (415) 561-2160, e-mail, or visit the Web site

Contact Jessie Mangaliman at jmangaliman@mercurynews .com or (408) 920-5794.

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