Skip to main content

tv   Discussion on Asian Immigration and Angel Island  CSPAN  August 31, 2017 1:41pm-3:13pm EDT

1:41 pm
instead, many of us find information niches that reinforce our opinions. going polarization has seemed to split us into two nations. >> watch this labor day on c-span and and listen on the free c-span radio app. up next, we take you to the university of minnesota where professor erika lee teaches a class on asian immigration to the west coast from 1830 to 1930. she focuses on the prominent role of san francisco's angel island. this is about 90 minutes. >> well, hello, guys. welcome back. i'm really excited to talk to you today for our session this afternoon because so many of us as americans, we grow up learning about the history of immigration through ellis island, right? this is what we talked about last week. it's the history of european immigrants coming to the new
1:42 pm
world under the shadow of the statue of liberty, it's often told as a very uplifting and romantic story where immigrants become americans, but not many of us know the history of immigration through angel island. this is the immigration station in san francisco and it's an important site not only for what happened back then in the early 20th century, but also because it's so timely today. it's timely because when we pick up any newspaper we see headlines like this. this is just from last week. republicans slam obama's immigration town hall. obama: i'll fight any attempt to reverse immigration action. moving forward to fix our broken immigration system. house conservatives warn boehner, don't cave on immigration. u.s. immigration dispute, threatens security, agency
1:43 pm
shutdown. does anyone know what some of these headlines are referring to last week? what was the big debate in congress? what was the proposed shutdown? >> diego. >> they were posing to shut down dhs funding because of obama's executive action referring to families. >> right. so obama's executive action that would protect millions of undocumented immigrants, undocumented immigrants, parents of undocumented immigrants who are parents of u.s. citizens or legal residents. this would halt their deportation. but we know that this is quite a controversial action right now. governors of 26 states have sued the white house because they believe this executive action exceeds the president's authority. at the same time there is a judge in texas who halted the immigration order and this has created gridlock in congress.
1:44 pm
obama says he's going to continue to fight, he had a town hall in miami that was sponsored by univision where he was talking about his commitment to reforming immigration laws. we know because we've been studying immigration history for the past several weeks that this is just the latest in our nation's immigration debates, but it does seem like it's a contracted one and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. so how do we consider this immigration debate with what we've been talking about most recently? immigration through ellis island. that story of european immigrants coming to new york, passing through ellis island, certainly there were examinations, there were physicals, there was some detention, but it was primarily
1:45 pm
pretty short lived and most immigrants were admitted pretty easily into the country. not only that, but this story has taken on a myth of its own. it really is the bedrock of this idea that the united states is a nation of immigrants. right? so how do we reconcile this great immigration debate that's going on today and then this idea that we are a nation of immigrants. i think one of the ways that we can think about this complicated history of immigration is through looking at immigration through angel island because we know that not all immigrants were welcomed into the country, not only immigrants were able to achieve their american dreams, but rather we picked and sifted and chose which immigrants to let in and which immigrants to let out -- or to keep out. and many times this really was
1:46 pm
dependent upon an immigrant's race, ethnicity, gender, class, this idea of who was fit to become a citizen and who is not and this is the history that is best exemplified through immigration, through angel island. this is in the san francisco bay, it's that other island, not alcatraz, but it's that other island that's in the san francisco bay that is now california state park. so the immigration station on angel island was open from 1910 to 1940. we primarily think about it as an entry point for immigrants from china and japan, and two-thirds of the immigrants who did come through angel island were from those two countries, but as you can see there are over 80 countries represented for the immigration stream that came through angel island
1:47 pm
according to our research it ranged from places like denmark and luxembourg, french indochina which is the name for vietnam, cambodia and laos to south africa, spain, switzerland, there were also folks who came south from canada and also north from south america. this is a photograph of the administration building on angel island. so when immigrants would dock they would land on a pier, they would go up this pier and this is the first site that they would see. there are three entrances here and racial segregation was the order of the day. there was an entrance for employees, there was an entrance for whites and there was an entrance for asians, and then within that administration building there were separate waiting areas as well. so at all times the different groups were segregated from each other through this
1:48 pm
administration building. so when we compare it to ellis island, ellis island is primarily enforcing laws that relate to immigrants from europe, right? it's in new york and most of the immigrants coming over are coming across from the atlantic. angel island is situated in san francisco on the pacific ocean, it's primarily enforcing laws that are targeting asian immigrants and the laws are very, very different. so while ellis island is a -- mostly a processing center, angel island is a place of interrogation, health examinations and detention. and this history is not as well known, but it's important because it helped shape our modern immigration system. so let's take a look at who these asian immigrants were. when we think about this great era of immigration there's two great eras of immigration, one is the one that we're living in
1:49 pm
today and the other is around this turn of the century, from 1830 to 1930. there are 35 million immigrants who come during this century of migration, the vast majority, 32 million, are from europe. so this is about a million immigrants from asia and another million immigrants come from latin america. so in the big picture, this is just a drop in the bucket, right? 1 million out of 35 million who are coming. and it's pretty diverse. there is about 450,000 chinese, they are the largest group, there is also 380,000 japanese, 150,000 filipinos and 7 to 8 to 9,000 each koreans and south asians. south asia is the term that was used to describe immigrants from india, pakistan and bangladesh. so it's a great diversity not
1:50 pm
only ethnicity but also in terms of numbers. and remember, there's only a million of them, but asian immigration helps to ignite some of our most divisive debates. so who were these immigrants? the chinese, they are like the european immigrants that we study. they're mostly young, male laborers. they want to come to the united states, they're thinking that their stay is temporary, that they're going to make money, return home. that's why they come alone, even they're married they tend to leave their wives and children behind. but over the years they decide eventually that they would like to stay in the united states. so they start calling for their family members. similarly the japanese are also male laborers. so remember this is a time when
1:51 pm
immigrants are needed for their labor, right? and it's for railroad building, it's for agricultural work. it's for light industry. it's for mining. so they want unskilled laborers to do that work. so japanese are also male laborers. they are generally more educated than some of the other asian immigrants because of compulsory education in japan. they also come thinking that they're going to stay only temporarily, but over time, again, like the chinese, they decide that the united states is worth settling down in. and they start calling for their wives and fiancees to come as well. so by world war ii the japanese american population is such that there's a really great proportion of u.s. born children. this is very different than the other groups.
1:52 pm
immigrants coming from asia are very diverse, and they're from one area in the punjab area which is present day india and pakistan. they're both male laborers, but increasingly a lot of students coming over too. this is a period of intense indian nationalism, and the immigrants coming over at this time are very much a part of that nationalist movement. koreans are a small group. they're a small group because japan has colonized korea by this time. and japan is very much controlling who goes in and who leaves the country. and so only a small number of koreans are coming over to the united states primarily to the west coast and to hawaii.
1:53 pm
and they also are coming for work, but more so than other groups they really see themselves as refugees. similarly to the russian jews that we were studying last week. they are fleeing japanese colonialism, which was extremely harsh and restrictive. korean language was banned, korean newspapers were banned. there was lots of surveillance. so they see themselves as refugees fleeing their homeland. and potentially staying away for a long time. so they come, a higher proportion come as families. one of the other things that makes them unique or different from other asian immigrant groups is that they're often christian because of the role of u.s. missionaries, american missionaries in korea at this time. so it's a really broad, diverse group of people who are coming. the last group are filipinos. they also are coming as male
1:54 pm
laborers, but again, what makes them unique is that they are coming as a totally different immigrant status. and not even an immigrant status. the philippines has been colonized by the united states. so filipinos when they migrate they migrate as what was called u.s. nationals. this is a different legal category. they're not subjected to immigration laws, which is really important. so as every other immigrant group is restricted, filipinos can still come without restriction and without those interrogations and inspections. they also see themselves as american. they've grown up with american teachers. they've grown up with american culture. they've grown up believing about the glory and riches of america. and so they believe that they're coming to just another part of the country. that they're already americans. but they are unequal in status.
1:55 pm
u.s. nationals allows them to migrate, but they're not citizens. they cannot vote. so when they come, they often face a lot of surprising to them anti-asian sentiment. so this is the broad diversity of asian immigrants that are coming to this country early 20th century. and when they come, they set in motion the reaction that americans have to them, sets in motion some of the most divisive immigration debates that we've ever had in this country. and this may be surprising to many people because today when we talk about asian americans, we talk about the popular understandings that they're on the rise, that they're -- what's the stereotype of asian-americans? they're smart. what else? they're a particular type of minority. do you guys remember the term?
1:56 pm
taylor? >> they're the model minority. >> they're the model minority. what does that mean? >> it means of all marginalized groups they are somehow exemplary and they constitute a narrative that the rest of marginalized people should ascribe to. >> right. so they can succeed. they can achieve economic success, academic success. and they do so on their own without government programs. so asian-americans are the model minority. that's the stereotype about asian-americans today. so it may be surprising that in the early 20th century they were considered not only undesirable immigrants but also in asymbol to foreigners to such a degree the united states wanted to not only reduce their numbers but exclude them altogether. so historian describes this, you know, power of anti-asian sentiment with this quote, she says, the presence of asians on american soil highlighted
1:57 pm
fundamental cleavages in american society. meaning that they were the first non-european immigrant group to come in such great numbers. that they came at a time that there was class tensions, changing race relations, this is post civil war, post reconstruction. these ideas about what does it mean to be an american, what does it mean to be free, what does it mean to be a worker, what rights do we have? and what is the role of the u.s. in the world? all of these things late 19th century -- 20th century, early 20th century are just rife with all of these massive changes in american society. so some of the ways that anti-asian sentiment plays out is through prejudice, bias, prejudgments, economic discrimination. barred from certain occupations. political disfranchisement. remember the 1790 naturalization act that said that only free
1:58 pm
white persons can become citizens, right? and can vote. so already asian immigrants are barred from becoming naturalized citizens. physical violence, immigration exclusion, which is what we're going to be talking about mostly today, social segregation. can't join certain clubs, live in certain areas. and during world war ii, incarceration. the mass relocation and incarceration of japanese-americans. so what did this look like in person? what did this look like in reality and on the ground? this is a cartoon from 1881 in san francisco. it's from the magazine called "the wasp." i'm going to ask me what you see.
1:59 pm
what does this cartoonist think about chinese immigration at this time? yes? >> well, it appears to be sort of a reaction to what is perceived as this overwhelming number of chinese immigrants. it's a mockery of the statue of liberty but also conquest because it's standing on a skal and it's clearly a chinese man due to the long braid which marks a lot of chinese and chinese caricature, but it's a mirror image of new york. >> good. what's the title of the cartoon? >> a statue for our arbor. >> right. a statue for our arbor, so in san francisco as opposed to new york. in new york they've got the statue of liberty, it welcomes european immigrants. in san francisco this is what our statue would be if we allow chinese immigration to come without restriction.
2:00 pm
so a couple things jeremy just mentioned. we can recognize this as a chinese male. he's got this long queue. this was a hair style mandated by the ching empire but in the united states it became seen as a sign of femininity, of exoticness, foreignness, subhumanness. he's wearing robes, but they're very tattered. this is not the classical greek figure. it has no dignity, right? he's standing on a skull, meaning that he's bringing ruin. does anyone see what he's holding in his left hand? joy? >> it's an opium pipe. >> it's an opium pipe. yeah. so another symbol of the vice of chinese immigration is bringing drugs and immorality.
2:01 pm
so there's writing that is emanating from the rays around his head. can anyone see what that writing is? it's hard to see from the middle, cartoon. the bond in right is filth. yeah. then what else? >> immorality. >> immorality. good. up on top? >> disease. >> disease. and then we're going to go -- we're reading right to left as the chinese would, right? this one says ruin too. and can anyone point out those last two? >> white labor. >> yes. ruin to chinese immigration. so bringing filth, immorality, disease, ruin to white labor.
2:02 pm
okay. catastrophic. chinese immigration is catastrophic to san francisco, to california. the foundation of the statue is crumbling, the ships that are coming are capsizing. and then the sun -- or the moon in the background has slanted eyes. so this is the future of california. this is the future of the united states to chinese immigration come unrestricted. and this is not an outlier. this is not a far right or far left or extreme example about this -- of this anti-immigrant sentiment. this is one of the most well-respected, well-read illustrated magazines in the late 19th century. so what's the effect of some of this popular sentiment? one is through violence. there are countless episodes of the chinese being driven out, literally being -- with mobs driving them out of small towns
2:03 pm
like eureka, california, as well as big cities like tacoma and seattle. this is an illustration of one of the well-known incidents, the massacre of chinese at rock springs, wyoming, in september of 1885. it happened about around a mining incident. some of the white workers and chinese workers were debating whether they wanted to go on strike. the white workers went on strike. the chinese decided not to, and the white workers drove them out after inflicting massive violence on the group. so there's about 28 who are killed, 15 wounded and hundreds are driven out into the outlying areas.
2:04 pm
so this is sentiment shaping some of the chinese immigration. but one of the aspects of this history is remember how diverse of the asian groups were? nevertheless when this idea of chinese immigrants as being a threat to the united states a class threat, racial threat, economic threat, it became attached to other asian immigrant groups as well. so that the newspapers would say chinese excluded, but now we have a japanese problem. or japanese excluded, now the hindus are coming. or the filipinos. they kept on calling them another asiatic invasion. it kind of got ridiculous. there was the second asiatic invasion and then the third and it became this typology that was framing the threat of asian immigration. and, again, it had very real consequences. so on the left is a newspaper
2:05 pm
clipping from the "new york times" in 1907 talking about, again, the driving out or the expulsion of south asian immigrants from a town in marysville. and this is more troubling, i think. this is a private letter that was sent to a townsman in california, the town sheriff or the town mayor. and it was collected and archived at the uc berkeley archives. this is from the 1930s. so a threat to expel the filipinos or they would inflict violence on the town. japanese immigration perhaps invoked a more broad scale and even international concern. this was called the yellow peril. and it had two elements.
2:06 pm
one was the familiar refrain that japanese immigrants were inassumable, that they were racially infear y racially inferior, taking away jobs, mixing with whites, but the second aspect was more unique to japan and japan's rising power in the world. they are an empire. they defeated russia in 1904. they defeated china in 1894. they've colonized korea. so there's this idea of an asian empire, japan's asian empire, that is infusing that anti-japanese sentiment with even greater force. that they're even more of a danger because who knows, those japanese immigrant farmers who are picking your strawberries may be the first advanced guard from a colonizing japan. this was the rhetoric by the 1920s and '30s that japanese
2:07 pm
immigrants in california, hawaii, oregon and washington were actually soldiers in disguise. and would be ready to do this. anyone recognize the artist? so what does this say? what does this mean to you? 1942, so that date's significant. >> there's an element of malfeasance and the cartoon implies they have some sort of connection with the government of their country of origin and they're willing to act on the desires of that government should they be called to do so. >> and how so? what are they going to do? >> blow up something.
2:08 pm
the little boxes that they're carrying say tnt, so it's assumed they're going to do some sort of damage. >> and what about the ways in which they're drawn, the number of them. >> there are a number of them and a variety of different clothe -- they have different clothing, but all the faces are the same. and that perpetuates the stereotype that all asians look the same. >> uh-huh. >> it also, i think, speaks to a stereotype that the japanese act as a unit. >> yeah. >> they're uniform. and that only contributes to this militarizing portrayal of japanese. >> good. okay. so one thing here -- remember the statue for our harbor? what was the chinese guy wearing? was he wearing like typical western dress? yeah? >> he was wearing really tattered robes. >> yeah. he was wearing robes. so, you know, either you could be seen -- it could be read as
2:09 pm
he's wearing, you know, classical greek robes like the statue of liberty, but they got tattered, or chinese robes. but here these japanese immigrants are wearing western suits. so they're assimilated to a degree. they're westernized to a degree, which makes them even more of a threat because you can't tell that they're really the enemy within. you can't tell that they're not loyal. but in fact, deep down inside they're just, quote/unquote, waiting for the signal from home. so they're all up and down the pacific coast. that idea of this yellow peril. and the signal, you know, is almost like a holding beacon, right? the signal from home is coming. this one guy is looking across the pacific waiting for it. it's come. pearl harbor has come. now it's time to wreck even more damage from within. so there's various different types of anti-asian sentiment. but all of them at its root
2:10 pm
describe asian immigrants as not american, always asian. immigrants that are dangerous cannot be assimilated. dangerous for several different reasons, but by the 1930s for japanese it's about national security. and then we know that by 1942, february of 1942, that japanese-americans all up and down the west coast are forcibly removed. so there are exclusion orders that are posted at every street corner in the cities ordering anyone with japanese ancestry to remove themselves, so they are barred from living in those areas, and to assemble at various different assembly centers where then they will be incarcerated for the duration of the war at several camps
2:11 pm
throughout the united states. so this is one of the ways in which this asian immigration story ends. but before we get to that, we want to consider the other aspect, the other path. and that path was barring new immigrants from coming over. so you've been reading a lot about chinese exclusion. the first act being passed in 1882. what are some of the things that this act does? the name kind of says it all, right? but not everything. not everything. not every chinese is excluded. so who is excluded? yes? >> all chinese immigrants aside from anyone who is a merchant or the children of a native born
2:12 pm
citizen. >> okay. good. so some are excluded, but then there's certain class provisions. so the main group excluded are chinese laborers. chinese laborers are excluded. at the very beginning the exclusion act just says for ten years. so it's sort of like an incremental step. so chinese laborers are excluded, but, like you were saying, there are exempt classes. teachers, students, travelers, merchants and diplomats. so it's not only racially based, it's class based. it's those who want to learn about the united states. it's those who want to visit the united states and spend money here. it's those who are engaged in international trade. so, again, u.s.-china relationships and economic trade, and of course diplomats. but those who are the bulk, the vast majority of chinese at this
2:13 pm
time, laborers, are barred. it's important because this is the very first time in u.s. history that we bar a group wholesale based on race. remember when we were talking about the irish immigration, the anti catholic movement and how even the know nothing party that had a national platform, they went so far as to advocate for restriction, right? they wanted longer times for naturalization, but they never said we're going to close the gates. but this time the united states does do that. and it doesn't just last for ten years, it gets renewed in 1892. it gets renewed in 1902. and it's made permanent in 1904. and it's really not until 50 years ago that we ban discrimination in immigration law. so it lasts a long time.
2:14 pm
and it has lots of repercussions. so it's just the first step towards closing the gates to asian immigration. but it would not be the last. so after, this is the irony of chinese exclusion, chinese laborers are barred, but this is a time period when 32 million europeans are still coming over and labor is still needed. so as soon as chinese exclusion is passed, japanese immigration increases, because they're still needed in the binds, in the farms and especially in the plantations of hawaii. but, again, that familiar pattern of anti-asian sentiment kicks into gear, and by 1908 we also prohibit japanese laborers. we do not dare call this a japanese exclusion act.
2:15 pm
because we don't want to bother japan. we don't want to insult japan. japan we think of as an equal nation. and so we pressure through our diplomatic channels to have a diplomatic agreement be reached, and we call it a gentlemen's agreement, as equally agreed upon by two nations. so japanese immigration prohibited by 1908. again, you bar japanese laborers, the immigration from south asia starts to increase. the united states feels like it has another immigration crisis on hand, so the 1917 immigration act decides to take a little bit more of a drastic approach and basically draws an entire red line throughout all of asia and calls it the asiatic barred zone. its primary aim is at
2:16 pm
prohibiting south asians. there were only 8,000 coming, but still, this law institutes these new restrictions. the 1924 immigration act also has a blanket exclusion. the one group that is not covered under the asiatic barred zone is japan. and even though laborers were barred, others were not. so students were coming over, but especially women and forming those japanese-american communities. so 1924 immigration act is two primary aims is to close those loopholes on japanese immigration, but also to restrict southern and eastern european immigration as well. so then the last group left are filipinos. and the only way to bar filipinos from coming to the
2:17 pm
country is ironically by granting the philippines independence. because the philippines is a colony. you cannot ban a colonial subject from going from one part of the empire to another. and so they have this really odd coalition of bedfellows, philippine nationalists who are eager for independence for the philippines and anti-asian exclusionists. and they come together and decide this is how we can achieve our goals. we'll grant nominal independence to the philippines. and by doing that they're no longer going to be u.s. nationals. but instead they'll be aliens, they'll be foreigners, they'll be immigrants. and they'll be then subjected to immigration laws. so you go from really large scale immigration from the philippines, 150,000, to a quo ta that only gives them 50 slots per year.
2:18 pm
so these are the laws. so the united states has a problem. as soon as we pass these immigration laws, this is, again, these are transformative, we've never done this before. we're not really sure how to enforce immigration laws. so, for example, with the 1882 chinese exclusion act, we passed this law in may, ships of chinese immigrants are coming to san francisco and the immigration officials who are really customs officials who have just been told, oh, by the way, in addition to counting the barrels of cotton that are coming on that ship, you're also supposed to enforce these new laws. so these customs officials are throwing their hands up and kind of saying, what? what are these laws? and what do you want us to do with them? so let's just take the case of chinese merchants. chinese merchants can still come. so a ship load of immigrants
2:19 pm
comes into san francisco bay, customs officials goes up to the ship. which one of you are laborers, which one of you are merchants? how are they going to determine who's a laborer, who's a merchant? this is the beginning of immigration documents. this is the beginning of the immigration interrogation. but what happens if the case is really complicated? the merchant, for example, needs two white witnesses to verify their claims. those two white witnesses are probably not waiting at the pier. probably have to send someone to go get them. and this takes time. so very soon after these laws are passed the u.s. government realizes they don't really know what we're doing just yet. we have these immigrants, these examinations are taking longer than we thought. we have nowhere to put them. so at the very beginning they just kept them on the ship. and the ship captain would say, it's all well and good that
2:20 pm
you're using my ship as a detention center, but i have to go back. i'm on schedule to go back across the pacific to pick up some more passengers. so then they would move those deta detainees to another ship. and observers in the 1890s talk about san francisco bay having these ships moored out in the bay basically immigrant detention centers. so to solve this problem there's a small detention shed that gets built in the 1890s. it's crowded. it's a fire trap. it's also not escape proof. and the u.s. government allocates money in 1903 to build the angel island immigration station on an island, escape proof, hard to get to, hard to leave, and calls it the ellis island of the west. and some of the newspapers from that time are talking about how it's this beautiful resort and immigrants will be so lucky to
2:21 pm
spend balmy days under the palm trees at the immigration station. but we know that didn't necessarily turn out to be the case. so here's another irony of this time period. we've passed immigration laws, but immigrants still keep coming. this is not unlike what explains our contemporary immigration patterns. this is why we have an undocumented immigration situation. even though the laws and the fences and the gates have been built, immigrants still want to come to the united states. so there's several different reasons. we have to understand that during this time period there's a lot of stuff going on in china. those push factors that we often talk about with immigration. there's civil unrest. there's famine. there's growing numbers of
2:22 pm
people, population explosion just like we were talking about with southern and eastern europe. and especially european and american powers are in china at this time. they're instituting unequal economic treaties. they're trying to gain more power, especially in this region that's just north of hong kong. by this time -- so by the time angel island opens up is 1910. chinese have been coming since the gold rush, 1850, that's 60 years. so chinese families have become dependent on migration as a form of economic survival. and even though the laws are passed, they are still dependent on migration to the united states, so how do they get around the laws is the question for them. and there's this revolution in transportation. so the steam ships are getting
2:23 pm
faster. they're bigger. and fares are cheaper. so at the same time the laws are being passed, you had steam ship agents going to the countryside saying i can get you there for this much. and the business is still being drummed up. the irony again is that you have laws that are restricting one group, but the united states still needs immigrant labor. and we know this because the millions of europeans are still coming in unrestricted. there are some chinese immigrant groups that we know still can come, merchants, u.s. citizens. so the gate is not totally closed. but all of this leads up to the fact that chinese either try to come in through those restricted openings, or they try to find
2:24 pm
other ways of coming in. and this is why we call chinese immigrants the first undocumented immigrants. and about 100,000 then still come during the exclusion era during the time that angel island was open, those 30 years 100,000 come through angel island. so this is an interview -- an excerpt from one of the interviews you have in your book. and he says that the chinese didn't want to come in illegally, but they were kind of forced. jared, would you mind reading this aloud for us? >> sure. we didn't want to come in illegally, but we were forced to because of the immigration laws. they particularly picked on the chinese. if we told the truth, it didn't work. so we had to take the crooked path.
2:25 pm
>> thanks. so what's the crooked path? what's the crooked path that he's talking about? yeah? >> was it paper sons and daughters. >> yeah, explain that a little bit for us. >> they would have a family friend or somebody they knew that would basically just tell immigration that they were family members and they just had to provide a piece of paper. >> uh-huh. so they were sons or daughters only by paper. >> yes. >> and they were getting in under those exempt classes that still allowed the sons or children of say merchant or u.s. citizen to come. yeah. okay. does anyone recognize this photo? or can imagine -- yes? what is it? >> i really like this photo. this was the notes because an order to pass interrogation immigrants would have to study their notes because they would
2:26 pm
go through extensive questioning with really, really difficult questions. so in order to get notes the immigrants sometimes it would be smuggled in food like bananas or talk about putting it in a capsule in a bowl of soup. one of the stories also talked about how the kitchen staff would help to pass notes because they would go into the city in san francisco to get food and then when they would come back they would hand notes out to whoever it belonged to. >> and they would provide the answers to some of the interrogations. i've also seen notes crumpled up into peanuts, peanut shells. and also oranges. so think about like your best efforts at passing a test. and these strategies here. let me read to you, so this is a government exhibit, the immigration officials found this banana and found these notes. and then took a picture of it. you can see it all laid out on
2:27 pm
kind of a scrapbook. and sent it back to d.c. as proof of the conditions of chinese immigration at this time. and the text, the typewritten text below says, the add admissibility of some chinese persons to the united states is dependent upon the relationship to other chinese already resident in the country. one of the tests of the relationship claims is a comparison of the statements of the applicant and is allowed relative separately on matters which would be common knowledge between them if the relationship existed. so the two interrogations. so the applicant and the applicant's relative and then they compare the questions and answers. the exhibits here illustrate one of the methods adopted by alleged relatives to send applicants held in detention on angel island coaching information. contemplated to make their testimony agree with that given by the alleged relatives.
2:28 pm
the chinese letter and the village diagram were transmitted in a banana. so here's the letter on the left. and then on the right is literally a map of the village with every resident and details of their allegedly, you know, shared village so that they could answer the question. these were transmitted in the banana, as shown. but the trick was discovered before the fruit was given to the applicant. so this is some of the consequences of chinese immigration during the exclusion era, these interrogations, the coaching notes. and also things like this. this is a page taken out of an immigration officer's log in downivill downyville, california. pages and pages of photographs and details of every immigrant in the city.
2:29 pm
things like long baean, he's a cook. change to home bing by interpreter. apparently the interpreter changed his name. 5'0" years 50 years'0" years, 5'3", you ca imagine this immigration officer going up and down the street with this log and keeping track of all the chinese immigrants in this town. and they would mark, you know, left for china or returned and so forth. so you've got the beginning of surveillance on immigrant groups. new government crackdowns on undocumented immigration. new investigations of fraudulent immigration documents. we have stricter and lengthier interrogations and examinations. we have for the very first time
2:30 pm
we're requiring immigrants to have on their persons at all times what we know today as green cards. but certificates of identity. so for the very first time we institute these for chinese immigrants. and if you were found without these, you could be arrested and deported for not being in the country legally. longer detentions. immigration raids, arrests and deportations, there are numerous raids in san francisco and boston, around the country of people, immigration officers and local police looking for undocumented immigrants. i remember specifically looking through immigration files in the national archives and coming across this poor guy's record. he may or may not have come in with fraudulent papers, but the immigration officials were convinced that he was hiding
2:31 pm
something. so they had an immigration raid. they descended upon this chinese restaurant where he was working. and the text of the report describes the immigration officers coming in through one door and watching him run out the back. he left behind his wallet, which the immigration officers confiscated and put in his file. and you can open it up. there's no money in there anymore, but you can open it up and it had his business cards, it had notes and photographs. so you can imagine that he left in a hurry. the fear that he had at that time. so immigration raids, arrests and deportations. and what chinese call living under the shadow of exclusion. always fearing deportation, always fearing that they would be found out, even if -- or being tainted with illegality
2:32 pm
even if they were not. so consequences of the paper son system, it might have allowed them to enter the country, but it had lots of different consequences. their fates were held in the hands of immigration officials at angel island. this is a photograph of them in the 1930s. you can pick out that there is one asian female employee. she was probably a matron in the women's barracks. and then three asian interpreters. but the 1930s interpreters could be asian. when the immigration bureau first began, it was against the law to hire anyone who was non-white, even if the job was interpreter. because it was believed that the
2:33 pm
asians would naturally collude with each other or be easily bribed. and so you had the situation in the 1880s and 1890s with the interpreters who were not asian, who were white, trying to interpret very difficult languages and dialects. and some of them didn't know all of them very well. so we have immigration officials on angel island and we have interviews in the book that you've been reading that detail that some were very fair minded. they felt that it was a difficult situation. they tried to give the benefit of the doubt, but we also know that many officials also were hardened. some were veterans of the anti-chinese movement, had helped to pass some of these laws and felt it was their duty to keep the gates closed as tightly as possible. one of the first things that
2:34 pm
chinese immigrants had to face was the medical exam. what do you remember from the family histories, the interviews, the poems? what are some of the things that former detainees talk about in terms of the medical exam? yes? >> they said it was very humiliating that they had to undress in front of everybody and they felt like they were being specifically pointed out especially with the hook worms. they thought it was a specifically made disease for only chinese immigrants. >> yeah. okay. so humiliation, that this was not something that was usual in china to strip down not only naked in front of the doctor, but in various forms of undress in a group. that there are certain diseases that were deemed excludable. there are parasitic diseases. remember watching the film about ellis island, the diseases that all immigration officials were
2:35 pm
looking for were contagious diseases, dangerous contagious diseases that one could pass to another, right? but these diseases that were being tested for here on angel island were not only the contagious diseases but these parasitic diseases, you know, like when you travel somewhere or drink water or food poisoning or other things, these parasitic diseases that could be easily cured, that were not contagious, but were used specifically to exclude immigrants. particularly from asia, because these certain parasitic diseases were known to be especially prevalent in asia. so you've got the medical exams. and then you have these interrogations. these interrogations that could last a couple hours. they could last two to three days. they could last even longer. the typical length was just a few days.
2:36 pm
but there are some immigration files where if you count the number of questions, it numbers up to 1,000 questions. so this is a scan of one of these -- just one page of one interrogation. and you can just see that it goes boom, boom, boom, boom. what's your name? have you ever been married? how old are you? when and where were you born? and this particular file the single spaced questions and answers are about six pages -- total about six pages long. so i want to do a little exercise with you. i'm going to put these questions up. and i want you to raise your hands if you think that you can answer these questions. and i want you to keep your hands up if you can keep on answering these questions, but then put them down as soon as you think that you have reached
2:37 pm
a question that you probably cannot answer. that you don't have the true and detailed answer. okay. you guys ready? all right. what is your name? good. how old are you? what are your parents' names? and what are their ages? okay. easy so far, right? when were they married? uh-oh. okay. do you have any brothers or sisters? you can raise it up again if you think you can answer this one. what are their names and ages? good. okay. what's the name of your village? okay. so in this case how about the name of your hometown. how many houses are on your street? okay.
2:38 pm
who lives -- just pretend, in the third house on the left hand side of your street? and list all names and ages. okay. jeremy's getting into the country. who's the oldest man in your village? or home city? and, it doesn't go. how many steps lead up to your house? you're all out. no one is coming into the country. how many windows does your house have? not only this, you would have to know the answer, but then your sister or father would also have to say the exact same thing, right? how many windows does your house have? how many clocks are in your house? how many chickens does your neighbor own? what happens if one of them dies between when you got on the boat and then arrived in the u.s.? how far is it from your village to the nearest hill?
2:39 pm
when were the windows put into your house? okay. so i need two volunteers. i want someone to be the harsh immigration official. and someone to be fong hoi kung who was applying for admission as the son of a native or u.s. citizen in 1918. who wants to be my harsh immigration official? okay. tyler is the immigration official. who is going to be fong hoy kun? i need someone sitting close by to tyler. great. okay, so you go first. you're the immigration official. >> which direction does the front of your house face? >> face west. >> your alleged father has indicated that his house is in how chung village faces east. how do you explain it? >> i know the sun rises in the front and sets in the back.
2:40 pm
my mother told us and also the how tong villages face west. >> cannot you figure this matter out for yourself? >> i really don't know directions. >> how many rooms in all are there on the ground floor of your house? >> three. i mean, there is a parlor, two bedrooms and a kitchen. there are five rooms in all downstairs. the two bedrooms are together side by side and are between the parlor and the kitchen. >> do you wish us to understand you would forget how many bedrooms are in a house where you claim to have lived 17 years? >> yes. i forgot about it. >> do you visit the market with your father when he was last in china? >> no. >> why not? if you really are his son? >> good job.
2:41 pm
[ applause ] >> so fong hoy kun is under pressure, and maybe he miss remembers. maybe he trips up, but he changes, and this is the exact record from the stenographer's note. the stenographer is noting changes or coughs or something like that, so this kind of -- this is kind of a typical back and forth, but if i was fong hoy kun, i'd be nervous, scared, and perhaps by the end of this a little angry. so we know from oral histories and others that these interrogations were terrifying, and this is a quote. some of you have read the story. this is a picture of her on her wedding. she was detained on angel island
2:42 pm
in 1922. and she told interviewers that one woman was questioned all day, and then deported. she told me they asked her about life in china, that chickens, and the neighbors and the direction the house faced. how would i know all that? i was scared. so what this translated to, these long interrogations, calling back and forth of witnesses, waiting for people to come from san francisco or oakland or sometimes from the interior, idaho coming to san francisco to give testimony was that the detentions were quite long. this is the only photograph that we have of what the barracks looked like inside around 1910. extremely crowded conditions between 200 and 300 men were housed at any time in the barracks. women were detained elsewhere on
2:43 pm
the second floor of the administration building. and on average, their stay was two to three weeks. they are let out for one hour a day, and this is what they have. so that's why there's, your cot is your living space. this is another quote from lee puey you. she was detained for 20 months. one of the things about chinese immigration during this time period was they were very active in challenging their denials. they hired lawyers and they would take their cases up through court and repute the case all the way up to the supreme court, and she talks about how she must have cried a bowl full of tears on angel island. how does this compare, ellis island to angel island? we know there's around 12
2:44 pm
million who come through ellis island during its period of operation from 1891 to 1952. that 20% of all immigrant arrivals are detained. so those are the women and children who are arriving to join their husbands. they need to wait until their husbands and fathers come and retrieve them. or those who are being tested for those contagious diseases. so 20% are detained. but it's not for long. detention time is one to two days on average. in the end, 98% are admitted. we think of ellis island as more of a processing center going through. the numbers are much different. just half a million come through angel island. so the scale is quite different.
2:45 pm
but we see the differences right away, too, with the detention. 20% on ellis island, 60% of all immigrant arrivals are detained on angel island. instead of counting detention times in one to two days, they count them in weeks, months, and years. the longest detention time is 756 days. 93% of chinese are admitted. so that's much higher than one would expect, but it's only after these long detentions and after really lengthy legal battles that are, of course, expensive as well. we know so much about the angel island experience because of these poems that have been preserved, and this one is the
2:46 pm
best-preserved poem. the author must have carved it over and over again, and this one fits with many of the things that you all have written about already. from now on, i'm departing far from this building, all of my fellow villagers are rejoicing with me. don't say that everything within is western-styled. even if it is built of jade, it has turned into a cage. immigration officials thought that the detainees were just writing graffiti on the walls. they would paint over and over and over. but these two guys copied more than 100 poems into their notebooks in the 1930s when they were detained. it's because of those poems that we've been able to preserve so many. i've chosen three, and i'd like three volunteers to help me --
2:47 pm
help us read them and also help us think about what they mean. so who would like to be the first one to read this poem? yes. thank you. >> there are tens of thousands of poems composed on these walls. they are all cries of complaint and sadness. the day i am rid of this prison and attain success, i must remember that this chapter once existed. in my daily needs i must be frugal. needless extravagance leads youth to ruin. all my compatriots should be mindful. once you have small gains, return home early. >> thank you. what are some of the messages here? there's a couple, at least. >> i concentrated on this poem within my response and compared it to another experience. something that i thought was interesting is that within this
2:48 pm
poem, it reflects i must remember that this chapter once existed. i think this is contradicting to most of the experiences at angel island because it was to detrimental. i'm sure it's something you would want to forget, where here they had a humility where it's something that she came out of it strong and was like this is a chapter i need to remember because it's going to help me be a strong woman and provide for myself and my family in such a difficult era in the united states. i thought that was interesting. >> good. even though it might be an experience that they would like to forget, that the multitude of these expressions on these walls, the tens of thousands of poems, the complaints and sadness that i must, that we must remember that this chapter once existed. what about the second half? in my daily needs, i must be frugal.
2:49 pm
once you have some small gains, return home early. what is this immigrant's plan? yes, tyler. >> i see a link to maybe referencing the extravagance of american lifestyle and in contrast to this person's homeland back in asia, and his plan may be to probably return once they can establish themselves and make some money. >> yeah. so not to stay. but to return. and probably that this experience on angel island has helped them convince themselves that the united states is not a welcoming place. so once you earn enough, return home early. okay. who would like to read this one? thank you. >> imprisoned in the wooden building day after day, my freedom withheld.
2:50 pm
how can i bear to talk about it? i look to see who's happy. they only sit quietly. i am anxious and depressed and cannot fall asleep. the days are long and the bowl empty. my sad mood is not dispelled. m dispelled. nights are long and the pillow cold. who can pity my loneliness. after experiencing such loneliness and sorrow, why not just return home and learn to plow the fields? >> thank you. so what are some of the messages here? in that first, in the first stanza? >> angel island was very bleak, just the environment and the long detentions and this environment caused a lot of its detainees to become emotionally depressed. and probably chronically depressed, judging by the accounts of suicide and many
2:51 pm
question why they came to the first place. >> which goes right into the second stanza. after experiencing such loneliness and sorrow, just give, why not just give up and learn to plow the fields? so coming with lots of hope to the united states, this experience changing them and causing this loneliness, despair, so much so that he cannot bear to talk about it and really questioning why they came to the united states in the first place. >> last poem. >> last volunteer. >>. [ inaudible ] >> with 100 kinds of oppressive laws they mistreat us chinese.
2:52 pm
it is still not enough after being interrogated and investigated several times, we have to have our chest examined while naked. our countrymen suffer this treatment. if there comes a day when china will be united i will surely cut out the heart and bowels of the western barbarian. >> a little bit more complicated than the other ones. what are some of the messages here? >> it illustrates immigration as a necessary process. it definitely gives testament to this notion that immigrants come out of necessity. they don't choose to come necessarily for fun and it references political instability in this country as to why they're here. >> political instability and global inequalities, right? our countrymen suffer this
2:53 pm
treatment all because our country's power cannot yet expand. so one of the things i think that is interesting about this one. is that it is more pointedly angry, resentful and threatening of violence than many of the others. and it explicitly pits at least on this in this case the chinese against the so-called western barbarians. and it's very important that he, we know that these, these are all poems that have been recovered from the men's barracks. we know that they're male, he's using that term "barbarian" because that is what they had been called themselves, that is what the americans were calling chinese, uncivilized barbarians. so by putting this back on the americans, it's even more pointed. >> and then this last line -- if there comes a day when china will be united, i will surely cut out the heart and bowels of
2:54 pm
the western barbarians. so quite -- quite a strong statement there. >> the history of immigration on angel island, one chapter ends in 1940 when a fire destroys the administrations building where the interrogations happen. the barracks of the women detainees would be. and for the next 30 years, the place is abandoned. it's actually scheduled to be demolished. and this is what the men's barracks looks like in the 170s. in many ways it was a history that was lost. it was lost because detainees themselves did not want to remember it. they identified this era, this period of immigration in their lives as being under the shadow
2:55 pm
of exclusion. they didn't talk about their experiences, even to their own families, so there are many family histories that you've read where the children are saying we were told never to use our real name, or i didn't even know that yun was not my real name until x, y and z. and paul cha was one of the leaders, talked about whenever he brought the word angel island up to his family he would hear -- shhh, don't talk about it. >> in the 1960s, immigration history was not yet a recognizable field. the immigrant was not yet studied. and this history was not well preserved. but through the efforts of many community activists, and discoveries, we first were able
2:56 pm
to discover, preserve the poems, because a california state park ranger found these poems when he was going through the barracks. he told his professor about it, biology professor, whose mother just happened to have been a detainee on angel island. and that professor told other faculty and students at sf state's newly created asian-american studies department. and they were inspired to study the poems, preserve them. do the oral histories. so the three authors of the book that you're reading were not professional historians. jenny lind was a poet, judy young was a librarian at the san francisco chinatown branch. they took it upon themselves go into the community to conduct oral histories to translate the poems. this is what the book looked
2:57 pm
like when it was first published in 1980. publishers, publishing houses did not want to publish it. so they self-published it. 35 years ago. >> what they found was this history that preserving and recovering the history served as a ka thars is for the chinese-american community. it openly aired these dark secrets. it allowed people to understand they didn't experience this on their own. that there were other who is experienced this history of racial exclusion and undocumented immigration. it helped to feel like they could let this go. that it wasn't all their fault that it was part of a larger history. a larger pattern of discrimination. it helped to legitimize the angel island experience. and it allowed immigrant
2:58 pm
detainees to feel like they didn't have to be ashamed any more. so judy young talks about how in the early period of the 1970s, she would find people to interview and then they would politely say -- no, thank you, i don't want to talk about it. now they are so many people who want to tell judy their stories, that she cannot keep up with them. it has become a whole new type of experience. and it's not just for the chinese american community. but it's been recognized as important for all americans. so that in 1998, the angel island immigration station became a national history landmark. and the rationale behind it comes from the community organization that put this movement forward. said the angel island immigration station presents the first, the only and the best
2:59 pm
opportunity to fully interpret the history of asian immigration to the united states. this is our plymouth rock, our valley forge, our alamo, our statue of liberty, our lincoln memorial all rolled into one. in the same way that ellis island has been enshrined as a national monument to commemorate european immigration to america, angel island should be recognized and declared a national historic landmark. and this is a photograph that, at that signing and at that ceremony. in 1998. >> there was a massive effort since then there has been a massive effort to raise money to restore the buildings, so this is the men's detention barracks that's been fully restored, is turned into a museum. a footprint of where the administration building sat is now an open space, but exhibits
3:00 pm
like an interrogation table, with photographs, they've restored the interior of the men's barracks as well. this is what it looked like at its reopening in 2009. there are now documentaries that help to explain the preservation of poems, the preservation process and a new discoveries that have been found. >> there have been 200 poems rediscovered and hundreds of inscriptions in many different languages, including punjabi, german, english, spanish, japanese, and there's also been carvings, illustrations that have also been restored. >> there's also been new
3:01 pm
research. a new edition of "island" with new family histories and new poems and another book on angel island that looks at a broad range of immigration through the immigration station as well. so all of this has led to what some could interpret as a closing of the chapter on this history of angel island immigration. in 2012, a group of community activists, lobbied for the passage of a statement of regret, in 2012. a statement of regret that, that congress regretted the chinese exclusion laws. and specifically the statement of regret acknowledged, so that it's important that it's not an apology. it's a statement of regret it acknowledges that the chinese exclusion acts quote resulted in the persecution and political alienation of persons of chinese
3:02 pm
descent, unfairly limited their civil rights, legitimized racial discrimination and induced trauma that persists with the chinese community today. this has been an important landmark event. type of reconciliation. this public acknowledgement that chinese exclusion happened, that it was detrimental that it did not coincide with our, our political beliefs. and this was an important event. important transformation in the history. but i also want us to question whether it's really time to close that chapter. does a simple statement of regret help us put it into the dust bin of history? let us forget about what happened? move on? think about other immigrant histories, happier stories?
3:03 pm
what are the lessons of angel island today? there were diverse groups of immigrants who came through the immigration station. not all of them were detained. not all of them might have had this experience of wanting to cut out the bowels of the western barbarian. but many of them did. and while we often point to say ellis island and its celebratory history of immigration, our making of a nation of immigrants, i would argue that this other history, this darker history of immigration through angel island perhaps has even more resonance with our contemporary world today. the poems describe frustration, disappointment, anger, resentment of the immigrant experience. and it helps us to confront america's history of discrimination in restriction, and immigration laws.
3:04 pm
and as we know, this is not a story that we can just safely leave to the early 20th century. these are two photos and headlines that were taken from the news just this past summer. when central american refugees, many of them, most of them children, or mothers, were coming across the border to the united states, for asylum. and for many weeks, we did not know what conditions these young immigrant detainees were being housed in. but a few weeks into it, we were able to find and get some sneak peeks, some pictures. so this is just one photograph of the processing facility in brownsville, texas. it can be argued that we're in a
3:05 pm
current state of immigration detention crisis. so let me just read off a couple of numbers for you. in 201 1, the department of homeland security held a record-breaking 429,000 immigrants in over 250 facilities across the country. so 429,000 people, immigrants were detained in 2011. that translates into about 33,400 beds a day. and advocates argue that the majority of these detentions are not actually necessary. so remember that detentions on ellis island were about one to two days. detentions on angel island, as hard as they were, averaged in the two to three weeks. today incarceration periods range from 37 days, to ten
3:06 pm
months. so we have 300,000 immigrants detained on angel island over the entire 30-year period. compared to in 2011 alone, the most recent statistics, 429,000 in one year. so it's been 50 years since we passed comprehensive immigration reform. we're celebrating, recognizing our honoring the 50th anniversary of the 1965 immigration act. and it's clear from this headlines that i showed at the very beginning that we're in a -- current debate over immigration. about which there does not seem to be any easy solution. how do we connect this to angel island, then? i would argue that angel island represents the best and the worst of america's immigration history. there are a many, many, immigrant families, including my own, who can trace their roots fwook angel island, and have made it through the educational
3:07 pm
system, and can now celebrate generations of being in the united states. but there are many others, for which that detention experience best mirrors this other side of immigration that we're also experiencing today. so i want to end by reading from the angel island immigration station foundation. the organization that dedicates itself to the preservation and education about immigration through angel island and through the pacific coast in general. it collects and preserves the rich stories of immigrants both through angel island and elsewhere. and also does a lot of education and outreach. it says in their mission statement that angel island reminds us of the complicated haddistry of immigration in america. it serves as a symbol to learn from our past, to insure that our nation keeps its promise of
3:08 pm
liberty and freedom. and if you want to learn more, we can go to the angel island's website. it has an amazing range and archive of immigrant voices. many of which are based on the collection of family histories and poems. in the book that we've read. but also there are more coming in every day. so thank you so much. that's it for today. and we'll see you next time. you're watching american history tv on c-span 3. we'll continue our look at the american west in a moment. tonight more lectures in history in primetime. tonight focus on the 1950s with programming on the korean war, pop culture and the development of suburbs across the country. join us at 8:00 eastern here on c-span 3.
3:09 pm
c-span cities tour is in spokane, washington with our comcast cable partners, we explore that city's rich history and literary scene, saturday, 7:30 p.m., book tv features the history and economic development of spokane with tony bellanti, author of "spokane." >> spokane was built from the money basically from the money from the core lane money district. the gold strike, gold rush in 1883, that led to a silver strike. it was one of the largest producing silver areas in the state of, or in the united states. and a lot of the mansions and big buildings are all built from the mining, the coeur d'alenes. >> and the life of one of the nation's most significant environmental leaders and father of the national park system is local author james hunt talks about his book "restless fires" young john muir's 1,000-mile walk to the gulf.
3:10 pm
>> john muir was probably one of the most significant environmental thinkers, leaders, he is basically the protagonist for the national park system. >> on sunday, at 2:00 p.m. eastern, american history tv features the story of expo '74, one of the first environmentally themed world's fairs. >> spokane was at the time the smallest city in the world ever to host a world's fair. but it was the first environmental world fair, the first fair to use the environment as a theme. and it followed close on i believe it's 1972, was earth day, the very first earth day. and there's a great consciousness around environmentalism. it became the theme and arguably the obsession of expo '74. also visit the childhood home of spokane native, bing crosby. saturday, 7:30 p.m. eastern. and sunday at 2:00 p.m.
3:11 pm
american history tv on c-span 3. the c-span cities tour, working with our cable affiliates and visiting cities across the country. labor day at c-span, former president obama accepts the annual jfk profile in courage award. at 8:00, columnist and "national review" senior editor, jonah goldberg. >> conservatives should not place all of their hopes in any politician. go back and read the founders, the federalist papers, they say this over and over again. you should have a healthy distrust of any political leader. sometimes particularly the ones that claim to be speaking for you. and then at 9:00 p.m. eastern, university of southern california, annenberg professor diane winston. >> six corporations own much of the american news media. and the digital revolution has meanwhile transformed the
3:12 pm
economy. networks and daily newspapers no longer set our national agenda. instead many of us find information niches that reinforce our opinions. growing polarization has seemed to split news two nations. >> watch this labor day on c-span and and listen on the freespan radio app. up next we'll look at the federal government and the american west in the 20th century. the university of colorado boulder's patricia limerick discusses the government's plan from doelg out land, to preserving it. >> okay. so here's our exploration of progressive era responses to the -- what it was understood to be the end of the frontier and if we have time we'll get to a massive adventure in applied


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on