Ellis Island in New York was the immigration center in the west and processed European immigrants. The exact number of people who passed through the Angel Island Immigration Center is unknown as records were destroyed in the fire that led to the closure of the compound in 1940.
Angel Island Immigration Center for kids: FAQ's
Where was Angel Island Immigration Center located? San Francisco Bay, California
When was the Angel Island Immigration Center opened? Construction began at 'China Cove' in 1905 and it was opened in 1910
What was its nickname? The "Ellis Island of the West"
What was the purpose of the Angel Island Immigration Center? The facility was primarily a processing and detention center where people were held for weeks or months
When did the Angel Island Immigration Center close? The Immigration Center closed in 1940 after a fire destroyed the Administration building
Angel Island Immigration Center for kids: Background History
Angel Island Immigration Center for kids: Immigration Laws
Angel Island Immigration Center vs Ellis Island
Angel Island Immigration Center: Exemptions
Angel Island Immigration Center Facts and Info for kids: Brief Facts for kids via the Fact Sheet
History: Native Americans were the first inhabitants of Angel Island. They belonged to the Muwekma Ohlone tribe, a Native American people of the California coast.
History: The island was named in 1775 by the Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala. He called it 'Isla de Los Angeles'. The island, with an area of 640 acres, is the largest island in the San Francisco Bay.
History: In 1848 the island changed from Spanish to American when California became part of the United States at the end of the Mexican-American War.
History: In 1850 the island was designated a federal military reserve with gun batteries to guard San Francisco Bay. The fortified island was used by the Union Army during the Civil War (1861 - 1865) and later used as a base for US troops fighting the 'Indian Wars' .
History: In 1892 the island was used as a quarantine station and inspection station to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, such as Yellow fever, cholera, and plague, to the United States. by Ships arriving from contaminated foreign ports were inspected and, if necessary, disinfected.
History: The immigration station compound was initially built by the federal government to enforce the Chinese Exclusion Acts. Construction began at 'China Cove' in 1905 and the compound was opened in 1910. The location on the island was chosen because it isolated immigrants from their family and friends on the US mainland.
Immigrants from China, Japan and Asia were inspected before entry was allowed into the United States. In 1910 a national system was created specifically to regulate Asian immigration
Immigration officials boarded ships arriving, via the Pacific, in San Francisco to inspect the documents of every passenger. Passengers were separated by nationality and class
Those who passed inspection went straight to customs and into the United States. These people were the First and Second Class passengers.
People who traveled in steerage usually required further inspection and were taken to Angel Island Immigration Center.
The immigrants were transported from the San Francisco piers by ferries to the inspection center where everyone would undergo a legal and medical inspection.
The immigration station had over 500 employees, including interpreters, and could handle over 2000 immigrants per day with sleeping accommodation for 1,000
There were 20 buildings on the compound. The immigration station consisted of:
The first stop on disembarking at the pier was the Administration Building where men were separated from women and children before undergoing the humiliating and embarrassing medical examinations.
Those with incurable diseases or disabling ailments were excluded from entry and deported. Other sick people were sent to the hospital
After the medical examinations they were assigned a detention dormitory and a bunk, where they had to wait to be interrogated by the Board of Special Inquiry
Segregation: Men were separated from women and children. Detainees were housed in segregated quarters. Asian and non-Asians were also segregated. Large ethnic groups, such as Chinese, Japanese, Indian, or Russian, were kept together.
Up to 100 detainees slept in dormitories in the barracks:
The compound was surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards were posted in towers to deter any hope of escape.
Detainees were allowed outside the barracks only for interrogations, meals and supervised recreation in the exercise yard
Women and children were allowed for walks around island once a week
There were no newspapers or radio and usually no visitors, except for missionaries.
Chinese on the mainland and leaders in the compound formed the Angel Island Liberty Association to try to make conditions more bearable
The Board of Inquiry: Immigrant applicants were interrogated by a Board of Special Inquiry. The Board of Inquiry was composed of:
The Board of Inquiry was allowed to use any means it deemed fit, under the Exclusion acts and United States Immigration laws, to ascertain the applicant's legitimacy to enter the United States
The interrogation by the Board of Inquiry consisted of up to three hundred questions. The answers given to the questions were then compared to those provided by family members and friends to the same questions. Any small discrepancies resulted in exclusion and deportation.
This rigorous form of checking information resulted in very long stays in the compound before a decision was made as to whether the detainee should be allowed into the United States or deported
The types of questions posed by the Board of Inquiry included those about the person's identity, place of origin, family, occupation, financial status and their planned destination in the United States. Detailed questions were asked about their village, the neighbors their homes and relatives.
The amount of time it took to take the testimonies lasted for hours and sometimes days. The Board of Inquiry would often repeat the same questions looking for any small contradictions. Any hesitation when giving answers were looked upon with suspicion.
When the Board of Inquiry completed its verification process the decision was made to allow the person entry into the United States or deportation.
The Immigration Center closed in 1940 after a fire destroyed the Administration building.
The exact number of immigrants that passed through the immigration station is unknown because the fire in 1940 destroyed the Administration Building and most of the immigration records.
The compound was then the briefly used as a detention center in World War II for the internment of Japanese nationals returning to Japan and WW2 prisoners of war.
The Angel Island Immigration Center was finally closed down and abandoned by the Army in 1946.
The site is now a federally designated National Historic Landmark administered by California State Parks and visited by many visitors and tourists to San Francisco Bay area - who also visit the famous Alcatraz Prison.
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|1881-1913: Maturation Era|
|US Immigration Laws|
|Ellis Island History|