Last week I toured Angel Island for the first time. I was part of a group of immigration attorneys there for a day trip as part of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) California Chapters Conference in San Francisco. Angel Island is known as the Ellis Island of the West. The immigration station was in operation there from 1910 to 1940. Most immigrants came from Asia (mostly China), and some from Russia (through Siberia), Jews escaping Nazi Germany, Canadians, Mexicans, and some Africans. While Ellis Island was built to welcome immigrants, Angel Island felt like more of a detention center aiming to keep people out. There is a sadness in the stories of the people who stayed there. We were given a presentation by Judy Yung, Professor Emeritus at UC Santa Cruz, and a moving tour by a Park Ranger.
A takeaway that we all got from the tour was that things haven’t really changed much from 100 years ago. The same issues with otherness, racism, classism, politics, are still rife today. Our tour was the Thursday after Tuesday night’s election. I (as well as most other San Franciscans) was shocked and depressed after the election. I avoided most news and the internet afterwards but had to get back to work, and the Angel Island tour was a good buffer and introduction to the harsh reality we are now facing. Our conference started Thursday night, and on Friday it was full-speed ahead with discussions of the future of immigration and advocacy that we must take now.
By Grace Alano. Grace Alano is an immigration attorney at Alano Immigration in San Francisco, CA. Find Grace Alano on Google+