--History of West Coast gateway offers lessons on immigration policy--
A new book co-authored by UC Santa Cruz professor emerita of American Studies Judy Yung and historian Erika Lee provides the first comprehensive history of the Angel Island Immigration station in San Francisco Bay-known as "the Ellis Island of the West."
Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America is the official publication commemorating the immigration station's 100th anniversary. It will be officially launched on July 31 at the Centennial Celebration, which takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Angel Island.
"Like Ellis Island, the Angel Island Immigration Station was one of the country's main ports of entry for immigrants in the early 20th century," says Yung. "But while Angel Island was popularly called the "Ellis Island of the West," it was very different from its counterpart in New York."
Yung notes that Ellis Island was mainly a processing center for European immigrants, welcomed by the Statue of Liberty. It enforced immigration laws that restricted, but did not exclude European immigrants.
Angel Island, however, was originally built to enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act.
"Angel Island was the main port of entry for Asian immigrants and was characterized by American immigration policies that excluded Asians and barred them from becoming naturalized citizens," says Yung.
Many detainees suffered through days of intense interrogation, humiliating medical examinations, and sometimes months and even years of forced confinement.
The history of Angel Island illustrates America's complicated and often contradictory approach to immigration--welcoming certain types of people on one coast, while at the same time detaining and deporting others on the opposite coast.
As the debate over immigration in the United States heats up--with a July 1 speech by President Obama about immigration reform, aimed at Arizona's controversial new immigration law and what many agree is a broken national immigration system--Yung notes that the history of Angel Island is especially relevant today.
"Angel Island was important in its own time, and it remains vitally important today, when debates over immigration and race continue to divide the country," Yung says.
"Immigrant detention is the fastest-growing form of incarceration in the country," she adds. "And it is clear that immigration will continue to be a hot political topic in this year's midterm elections, in local communities, in the White House, and in the halls of Congress."
Yung's research on Angel Island is personal; her father was a detainee.
She noted that a portion of the royalties from the book will benefit the current Angel Island Immigration Station, now a state park and educational center.
Yung taught at UC Santa Cruz from 1990 until her retirement in 2004. Her previous books include Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940, and Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco.
Judy Yung will celebrate the publication of her new book on July 31 at the Angel Island Immigration Station Centennial Celebration (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), on August 7, at the Fort Mason Conference Center in San Francisco (1:30 to 4 p.m.), and on August 18 at the Capitola Book CafÃ© in Santa Cruz (7:30 p.m.). All events are free and open to the public.