by Eddie Wong. On December 17, 1943, the U.S. Congress passed the Magnuson Act also known as the Repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt lobbied hard for the Act as it would redress “an historical disgrace.” So, it is quite fitting that 77 years later, we mark this day by taking action once more to safeguard the Angel Island Immigration Station, our immigrant ancestors “talk story” memorial of hardship and perseverance.  The Immigration Station was a direct by-product of the U.S.’ discriminatory policies towards Asian immigrants, not just Chinese, who were the largest immigrant group, but also Japanese, Filipinos and South Asians.

Memorial at the foot of the dock where immigrants entered the Administration Building at the Angel Island Immigration Station. Photo by Eddie Wong.

Today, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation is putting out a call for you to submit public comments to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) which will rule on the Blue and Gold Fleet’s application to discontinue ferry service from San Francisco to Angel Island State Park where the Immigration Station is located. Edward Tepporn, Executive Director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, underscored the urgency of the situation: “… this would significantly decrease visits to Angel Island and potentially jeopardize a historic site that has taken decades to restore. Direct ferry service from San Francisco to Angel Island is not only a convenience to Bay Area residents, but it is also a necessity.”

Elementary school students from the Mission District visit Angel Island, 2010. Photo by Eddie Wong.

In its application to the CPUC the Blue and Gold Fleet cited operating losses over the past three years with declining visitorship to Angel Island.  Ferry service would still be available to Angel Island via the Tiburon ferry.  San Francisco Bay Area visitors would need to drive to Tiburon in Marin County to take the ferry. Going to Tiburon to catch a ferry adds at least one hour to the overall visit to enjoy hiking, biking, picnicking and visits to the Immigration Station. With the new Angel Island Immigrant Museum set to open once the health crisis of the pandemic has subsided, curtailing ferry service would be a deterrent to school groups and immigrant families as well as members of the general public who are interested in American history.

Angel Island Immigration Station, 1972. Remnants of loading dock. Photo by Eddie Wong/VC Photo Archive.

The Angel Island Immigration Station holds a special place in my heart.  I visited the abandoned detention barracks in 1972 while doing research for a documentary film about Chinese American settlement in the Sacramento River Delta. When I told my father that I visited the barracks and showed him pictures of the poetry carved in the walls, he told me quietly, “I was there.” He had never told me about the circumstances of his immigration because he was a “paper son.” He proceeded to share the story of being held there for one month awaiting deportation after someone ratted him out in San Francisco. He was 17 years old and had come to San Francisco by himself to support his family in Taishan. He returned two years later with a new identity and once admitted left immediately for Chicago. You can read the his story at AIISF’s Immigrant Voices: Eat More Potatoes and Go Back to China: The Story of Moon Tung Wong

Chinese men’s barrack, AIIS, 1972. Photo by Eddie Wong/VC Photo Archive.

One of our family’s proudest moments was when my brother and sisters installed a plaque on the Wall of Remembrance to honor my father and mother, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1949.

Please submit your comments to the CPUC by clicking on the following link and hitting the “add public comments” at  CPUC Blue and Gold Fleet re: Angel Island

Longtime Angel Island State Park docent Dale Ching and family at the Wall of Remembrance Photo by Eddie Wong.

The CPUC has not set a date for the public hearing.  Please submit your comments ASAP and let your friends know about the need to lobby the CPUC to keep the ferry service to Angel Island. We can’t afford to lose direct access to Angel Island from San Francisco.

Author’s bio:  Eddie Wong is the editor/publisher of East Wind ezine. He was one of the student founders of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and was a co-founder of Visual Communications, the nation’s first non-profit media production company.  He was the Executive Director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation from 2008 to 2012.

Cover Photo:

The restored Detention Barracks with the benches on the right to mark the former Mess Hall. Photo by Eddie Wong.

10 Comments

  1. Felicia Lowe on December 17, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Beautiful! Thank you Eddie for your story and rallying supporters of our history!

  2. Suzi Wong on December 18, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    Thanks for the heads up about this threat to Angel Island and the call to action. Both of my trips there …(by way of the ferry, of course!) are so vivid and meaningful: 1) the time we went with Donna and Ken and Hilda and Daryl and Sonja (taking the next generation) to see the plaque for Mom and Dad and 2) the time I attended the citizenship ceremony held on Angel Island on Sept 17, 2010. As the new citizens and their families celebrated on that gorgeous, sunny day, I thought about another Sept 17. On that date in 1949 Mom and I disembarked from the ocean liner and first step foot in S. F., (actually, just a figure of speech — she might have been carrying me in her arms because I was only a year and a half.

  3. Zer on December 18, 2020 at 8:52 pm

    I am so grateful for this article. Angel Island is a huge part of our history that is not taught in the textbooks and one that needs to be shared. As an Asian American I lived and went to the through the school system it was so enthralled to learn about this huge missing piece of our history. This landmark definitely should be preserved and shared with future generations.

  4. Donna Sugimoto on December 19, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    My grandmother’s brother was one of the many held at Angel Island during WWII. He was taken from Hawaii and held at 8 different locations on the mainland and Hawaii including Angel Island. I am writing to oppose the Blue and Gold Fleet’s application to discontinue ferry service from San Francisco to Angel Island State Park where the Immigration Station is located. This history is so important and access to Angel Island should be made as easy as possible so people who visit San Francisco may learn of this history and honor those who were unjustly held there.

  5. Jon Yamaoka on December 20, 2020 at 8:50 am

    Thank you Eddie for alerting us about the possible discontinuation of ferry service to Angel Island by the CPUC. We can not let such an important part of history lose access to the public. The ferry must continue!

  6. Marissa S. on December 20, 2020 at 11:08 am

    As a place where our ancestors came to America, this site is very special. While many other landmarks have been lost to time and lack of funding, Angel Island is a place we can walk through and take a glimpse as to what life was like. As someone who has visited before (by way of ferry), I oppose the action to discontinue ferry service; it’s basically like shutting down the park itself. If no one can access or learn from this information, it defeats the purpose of making this museum in the first place. It holds thousands of pieces of history vital to the formation of the America we know today. Please don’t let this history be hidden simply because there is no way of travel.

  7. Citania Tam on December 20, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Where to send? Address please

    • Eddie Wong on December 20, 2020 at 1:56 pm

      If you don’t have access to the online reply, you can send at letter to the California Public Utilities Commission, 505 Van Ness Avenue
      San Francisco, CA 94102. Thanks, Citania.

  8. warren mar on December 20, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    thanks Eddie,

    forwarded to my family and CT friends. My dad was there too at the age of 12. Our fathers had so much in common every-time we talk. I took my dad there for the 1st time in the 80′ and he blew away the guide from the Park Service with his recollections.

  9. S Zhao on December 23, 2020 at 5:49 am

    Ferry service to Angel Island must continue! It is more than just a boat going to this island. But rather, a connection between historical story telling and a bridge between what happened during WWII and the current younger generation who do know a life of hardship and grit… What it had to take for one to leave their country to a foreign country to make money and support their family. I would not be in North America if it wasn’t for my parents’ sacrifice. They have endured a lot to create a better life for me and my siblings. This makes up a chunk of the citizens living in North America, it is build on immigrants and their background stories. Do not halt the ferry service to Angel Island!

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