AAA Editor Notes
Angel Island Immigration Station is within Angel Island State Park; access to the island is by public ferry from Tiburon or San Francisco or by private boat. Angel Island Immigration Station was a processing center often called “the Ellis Island of the West.” But unlike at Ellis Island, the immigrants—mostly from China—who sought entrance into the United States at this point of entry were frequently detained in overcrowded wooden barracks, endured embarrassing medical exams and lengthy interrogations, and were made to wait weeks (and sometimes months and even years) to learn the outcome of their application. This was due to the Chinese Exclusion Acts, which were in effect from 1882 to 1943, and other anti-Asian legislation passed in 1917 and 1924. Immigrants from eighty countries were processed by the Immigration Station.
Many of these immigrants carved poetry into the walls of the barracks to convey their plight. The carvings were considered graffiti and were covered over with coats of paint. Visitors can see photographs, artifacts, a re-creation of the living quarters and hundreds of poems that were etched into the walls.
From the ferry dock the immigration station is a 1-mile walk (including a climb of 140 stairs) that takes 30 to 45 minutes. A 1-hour guided tour provides a first-hand look at those who were detained here and relates their strength and resiliency. Tour tickets can be purchased at the café at Ayala Cove.
Note: The hike and steep stair climb to the immigration station will be strenuous for visitors who are not in reasonably good physical shape. Shuttle service is available on a limited basis from the ferry landing to the immigration station; phone ahead for schedule and rates. Ferry service to Angel Island also is available from San Francisco, and seasonally from Oakland and Alameda.