From 1910 to 1940, the Angel Island Immigration Station processed approximately 175,000 Asian immigrants entering into the US, serving a similar role to Ellis Island for European immigrants. Angel Island is sometimes referred to as “The Ellis Island of the West.” The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 provided tough entry restrictions, so many immigrants waited on the island for as long as two years while they exhausted appeals.
The conditions of buildings on Angel Island were poor. Many of these immigrants carved poems in Chinese on the walls of the island’s buildings, poems which have been anthologized and studied by scholars. One unhappy prisoner carved in the wall, “For what reason must I sit in jail? It is only because my country is weak and my family poor.”
A fire burned down the administration building in 1940, and all subsequent immigration processing took place in San Francisco.
In the 1970s, the Chinese American community successfully lobbied the State of California to designate the Immigration Station as a State Landmark. Today, the Angel Island Immigration Station is a federally designated National Historic Landmark. The Angel Island Immigration Station is presently being renovated by the California State Parks and is scheduled for public reopening in May, 2008.