Angel Island: The West Coast’s Ellis Island
When we think of immigration to the United States, we often think of Ellis Island in New York as the main point of entry. However, there was also a West Coast version of Ellis Island that served as the gateway for many immigrants entering the country from Asia and the Pacific. This was Angel Island, located in San Francisco Bay.
History of Angel Island
Angel Island was first used as a military base during the Civil War, and in 1905, it was designated as an immigration station. This was during a time when many immigrants were coming to the United States from Asia and the Pacific. Unlike Ellis Island, where the processing of immigrants was relatively quick, Angel Island had a reputation for being a harsh and restrictive environment for immigrants. Immigrants who arrived at Angel Island were often subjected to long periods of detention, interrogations, and physical exams to determine their eligibility for admission to the United States.
Immigration from Asia and the Pacific
Angel Island was primarily used as an immigration station for immigrants from Asia and the Pacific. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was in effect at the time, which severely limited Chinese immigration to the United States. This led to many immigrants from China and other Asian countries entering the country illegally, often through the West Coast. The U.S. government responded by increasing its enforcement efforts, and Angel Island was one of the main locations for detaining and interrogating these immigrants.
Immigrant Experience at Angel Island
The experience of immigrants at Angel Island was vastly different from that of immigrants at Ellis Island. Immigrants at Angel Island were often subjected to long periods of detention, sometimes lasting several weeks or even months. They were also subject to interrogations and physical exams, which could be humiliating and degrading. Additionally, the conditions at Angel Island were often harsh, with overcrowding and poor sanitation.
Today, Angel Island is a state park that is open to visitors. It serves as a reminder of the struggles and hardships that immigrants faced when trying to enter the United States from the West Coast. Visitors can take guided tours of the immigration station and learn about the experiences of the immigrants who passed through Angel Island.
While Ellis Island is often thought of as the primary gateway for immigrants entering the United States, Angel Island played a significant role in the immigration history of the country, particularly for immigrants from Asia and the Pacific. The experiences of immigrants at Angel Island were often harsh and restrictive, but they are an important part of the history of immigration to the United States.
Picture: National Archives Washington D.C.