Immigration at the Golden Gate: Passenger Ships, Exclusion, and Angel Island

Immigration at the Golden Gate: Passenger Ships, Exclusion, and Angel Island

by Robert Eric Barde
     
 

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Perhaps 200,000 immigrants passed through the Angel Island Immigration Station during its lifetime, a tiny number compared to the 17 million who entered through New York's Ellis Island. Nonetheless, Angel Island's place in the consciousness of Americans on the West Coast is large, out of all proportion to the numerical record. This place is not conceded fondly or

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Overview

Perhaps 200,000 immigrants passed through the Angel Island Immigration Station during its lifetime, a tiny number compared to the 17 million who entered through New York's Ellis Island. Nonetheless, Angel Island's place in the consciousness of Americans on the West Coast is large, out of all proportion to the numerical record. This place is not conceded fondly or with gratitude. Angel Island's Immigration Station was not, as some have called it, the Ellis Island of the West, built to facilitate the processing and entry of those welcomed as new Americans. Its role was less benign: to facilitate the exclusion of Asians-first the Chinese, then Japanese, Koreans, Indians, and all other Asians.

This was the era when a rampant public hostility to newcomers posed grave threats to the liberties of all immigrants, especially those from Asia. The phrase Angel Island connotes more than a rocky outpost rearing up inside the mouth of San Francisco Bay, more, even, than shorthand for the various government outposts-military, health, and immigration—that guarded the Western Gate. Angel Island reminds us of an important chapter in the history of immigration to the United States, one that was truly a multicultural enterprise long before that expression was even imagined. With the restoration of the Immigration Station and the creation of a suitable museum/learning center, Angel Island may well become as much part of the American collective imagination as Ellis Island-but with its own, quite different, twist. This book shows how natives and newcomers experienced the immigration process on the west coast. Although Angel Island's role in American immigration was greatest at the dawn of the previous century, the process of immigration continues. The voices of a century ago—of exclusion, of bureaucratic and judicial nightmares, of the interwoven interests of migrants and business people of the fear of foreigners and their diseases, of moral ambiguity and uncertainty—all echo to the present day.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Robert Barde examines the history of Asian passenger steamship travel and Chinese and Japanese immigration through San Francisco and the federal immigration station on Angel Island. . . . Immigration at the Golden Gate offers wonderfully detailed portraits of some of the immigrants, immigration officials, and steamships that made Angel Island such a significant part of American immigration history. It joins a number of recent monographs that have paid increasing attention to the politics and logistics of immigration and immigration law enforcement at our nation's borders in the past and the present. Barde. . . is a wonderful storyteller, and the book's research is impressive. . . . There is much valubale new information in Immigration at the Golden Gate, and Barde does an excellent job of bringing long-forgotten people like Quok Shee and John Birge Sawyer to life in order to shed light on this important chapter in American immigration history." - Journal of Economic History

"Immigration at the Golden Gate is an excellent history of those times and troubles on the Pacific. . . . This is an especially pertinent volume when you reflect on today's ongoing debate and political posturing regarding our current immigration situation." - Steamboat Bill

"Robert Eric Barde reminds us that there was another portal to the US, and that the experience of the roughly 200,000 who entered through that door—or, more accurately, who tried to—were vastly different from their East Coast immigrant brethren. . . . With a deft eye for detail, an investigative journalist's nose, a rich research agenda, and a talent for writing, the author communicates a little-known tale to his readers. The result is a far-ranging work that succeeds on various levels: as maritime history. . . as a local history, and as an ethnic study. . . . Robert Eric Barde's Immigration at the Golden Gate is a heady meal. It offers something to the serious scholar and to the armchair activist, and, while it is an easy read, it rewards a close and studious examination. It deserves a place on many reading lists, and should also find itself as a finalist for many accolades." - Sea History

"[D]raws intriguing contrasts between the immigration gateways of Angel Island on the West Coast and Ellis Island on the East, exploring differences between the two entry points, considering their different roles, and providing a history of the Angel Island Immigration Station which operated from 1910-1940, when public hostility to newcomers posed a threat to the new California immigrants. Any college-level collection strong on either general American immigrant experience for California history in particular must have this." - Midwest Book Review/California Bookwatch

"Tells a chilling story that makes it clear that detention in primitive conditions is in no way a thing of the past." - UC Berkeley News

"Barde state that, 'while Ellis Island was built to let Europeans in, Angel Island was built to keep Asians out' of the US. Historians have devoted much attention to European immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, relatively less scholarly and popular writing has been devoted to the efforts to control Asian immigration through San Francisco following the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This book takes a step toward filling that gap and reveals what sources are available for researchers and writers. . ." - Choice

"In Immigration at the Golden Gate, Robert Barde examines the history of Asian passenger steamship travel and Chinese and Japanese immigration through San Francisco and the federal immigration station on Angel Island. In operation for thirty years, from 1910 to 1940, the immigration station on Angel Island processed over a million people who passed through the island either as first-time applicants, returning residents and citizens, transients, or deportees and repatriates. Thousands of visitors, immigration officials, doctors, social workers, and station employees would also spend time at the station, facilitating the government's business of inspecting, treating, feeding, detaining, and processing new and returning arrivals into the country and deportees and repatriates out of the country. . . Immigration at the Golden Gate offers wonderfully detailed portraits of some of the immigrants, immigration officials, and steamships that made Angel Island such a significant part of American immigration history. It joins a number of recent monographs that have paid increasing attention to the politics and logistics of immigration and immigration law enforcement at our nation's borders in the past and present." - Journal of Economic History

"Immigration at the Golden Gate is a significant interdisciplinary historical work and notable contribution to the field of Chinese American studies. Using extensive primary materials that include original personal accounts, records, and San Francisco's Chinese exclusion case files, Robert Eric Barde reports a poignant and personal story of detainment and incarceration at the Angel Island Immigration Station." - The Journal of American History

"The author brings solid credentials to his endeavour.'
" - International Journal of Maritime History

"I learned something from each essay and much from some. Barde, a good storyteller, writes clearly and well. . .The jewel of the book is the story of a dedicated immigration official, John Birge Sawyer (1881– 1970), based on his extensive papers in the Bancroft Library. . . . In this and the other essays in this section, one gets an unparalleled notion of the nitty-gritty tasks of immigration restriction. While everyone interested in these topics will profit from reading Barde's essays, this book also highlights the lack of a large, synthetic study of trans-Pacific emigration from Asia to North America, the Caribbean, South America, and Australia." - Pacific Historical Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780313347832
Publisher:
ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date:
03/30/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

William Kooiman
"With this well-researched work Mr. Barde has filled a void in the history of Asiatic immigration to San Francisco. Covering every aspect of the immigrant experience the book is very readable. His chapter on the Life and Death of the China Mail Steamship Line won the Karl Kortum award for maritime history presented by the Friends of the San Francisco Maritime Library."

Judy Yung

"Robert Barde's Immigration at the Golden Gate is a treasure trove of meticulously researched and dramatically recounted stories of the different players involved in trans-Pacific travel and the immigration industry at the port of San Francisco. It is a valuable resource and must read for anyone interested in the history, economics, and politics of Asian immigration and exclusion at Angel Island."

Judy Yung, Professor Emeritus of American Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

Alan M. Kraut

"Through the lens of one Chinese female immigrant's twenty month detention on Angel Island scholar Robert Barde allows readers to view the struggle of newcomers for fair treatment after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Barde's skillful unpacking of this moving episode offers readers an invaluable perspective on how restrictive immigration policy was enforced against Chinese in an earlier era. His work is an invaluable companion to accounts of the legislative debates, political machinations, and racism that resulted in Chinese Exclusion. And, his is a cautionary tale chillingly relevant to contemporary policy debates over exclusion and detention."

Alan M. Kraut, Professor of History, American University

William Kooiman

"With this well-researched work Mr. Barde has filled a void in the history of Asiatic immigration to San Francisco. Covering every aspect of the immigrant experience the book is very readable. His chapter on the Life and Death of the China Mail Steamship Line won the Karl Kortum award for maritime history presented by the Friends of the San Francisco Maritime Library."

William Kooiman, Reference Librarian, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Alan M. Kraut
"Through the lens of one Chinese female immigrant's twenty month detention on Angel Island scholar Robert Barde allows readers to view the struggle of newcomers for fair treatment after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Barde's skillful unpacking of this moving episode offers readers an invaluable perspective on how restrictive immigration policy was enforced against Chinese in an earlier era. His work is an invaluable companion to accounts of the legislative debates, political machinations, and racism that resulted in Chinese Exclusion. And, his is a cautionary tale chillingly relevant to contemporary policy debates over exclusion and detention."
Judy Yung
"Robert Barde's Immigration at the Golden Gate is a treasure trove of meticulously researched and dramatically recounted stories of the different players involved in trans-Pacific travel and the immigration industry at the port of San Francisco. It is a valuable resource and must read for anyone interested in the history, economics, and politics of Asian immigration and exclusion at Angel Island."

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Meet the Author

Robert Eric Barde is Deputy Director and Academic Coordinator of the Institute of Business and Economic Research, University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of nearly three dozen articles in immigration history and the social sciences and has written for numerous award-winning programs on TVOntario.

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