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Digital History ID 3292

 

It was called the "Ellis Island of the West." Located in San Francisco Bay, Angel Island was also a check point for immigrants in the early years of the 20th century. But only a small proportion of the 175,000 people who arrived at Angel Island were allowed to remain in the United States. Angel Island was a detention center for Chinese immigrants. It was surrounded by barbed wire.

Thirteen-year-old Jack Moy and his mother sailed to the United States in 1927. The two spent a month in the detention center separated from one another. Immigration officials asked insulting personal questions, such as whether their mother had bound feet or how many water buffalo a village had or "who occupies the house on the fifth lot of your row in your native village." Discrepancies in an answer could mean deportation to China. Immigration officials marked down every identifying mark, including scars, boils, and moles.

To join her husband in the United States, Suey Ting Gee had to pretend that she was the wife of another man. Under a U.S. law in effect from 1882 to 1943, the Chinese wives of resident alien laborers could not join them in this country.

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