From 1910 to 1940, many immigrants came to California. About a third of these immigrants were Chinese, and they weren’t welcomed with open arms. This wasn’t the first time Californians didn’t invite Chinese immigrants.
The Chinese Exclusion Act
It went as far back as the California Gold Rush of the 1850s. When the Chinese arrived in the gold fields, they endured many restrictions. They could only work in abandoned sites and had to pay a foreign miners tax. Many American workers loathed the Chinese, as they would work for low wages that other citizens wouldn’t. The locals would call that “stealing jobs.” So Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Still, the Chinese got in by becoming exempts, a person permitted to enter the United States. When the San Francisco earthquake struck, the Hall of Records was destroyed. The Chinese used this to their advantage, lying to government officials that their parents were U.S. citizens, and becoming an exempt. These claims usually weren’t truthful.
Even if one claimed they were a citizen, they were still interrogated. But first, doctors would examine the immigrant’s health. The cramped building the immigrants were held in was extremely close to Chinatown, so answers to questions could easily be smuggled into the detention shed. Sometimes the immigrants escaped from the shed and disappeared into Chinatown.
Chinatown leaders complained a lot about this shed, as it was unsanitary, unhealthy, and filthy, so the government finally rebuilt it onto Angel Island. Chinatown was still upset, as it was only a little better, and it was also harder to smuggle answers.
The government noticed it had its own problems too. It was expensive since everything was brought in by boat, and still, it was unhealthy. Nonetheless, the government refused to budge. Thirty years later, a fire broke out and the administration building was in ashes. They rebuilt it in San Francisco. However, it was because America wanted a good relationship with China.
Today it’s a national historic landmark and many enjoy hiking, biking, and picnics there. The good part? There isn’t a good part in my opinion. Let’s put it this way.
You want to come to America as a Chinese immigrant. You pay your hard earned $100 to a random Chinese stranger that’s a citizen for them to say that you are their son/daughter. Then you have to undergo a medical examination. You are asked the same questions many times to make sure you aren’t lying. But before you are questioned, you must wait your turn for months in this dirty and filthy cabin where privacy doesn’t exist.
Would you be happy? As you can see, you’ll be in an ugly situation if you were one of these immigrants. So Angel Island: not so angelic after all!