In the early twentieth century, most Chinese immigrants coming to the United States were detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay. There, they were subject to physical exams, interrogations, and often long detentions aimed at upholding the exclusion laws that kept Chinese out of the country. Many detainees recorded their anger and frustrations, hopes and despair in poetry written and carved on the barrack walls.
"Although it was widely known as the Ellis Island of the West, Angel Island wasn’t meant to herald immigrants to the United States so much as to keep them out. Located just across from Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay, the immigration station started operating in 1910, largely to process the cases of Chinese laborers, who, three decades before, had become the first group of people to be specifically blocked by federal U.S. immigration policy."
"Chinese Whispers" comprises a suite of multi-platform art and storytelling projects that bring to light the overlooked history and experiences of the Chinese who helped to build the American West, through their work on the railroads and in the mines, agriculture, fisheries, industries, and various enterprises. Founded by artist Rene Yung in 2006, the organization emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach that integrates research with artistic production and place-based public programming, to bring this history to broad audiences in fresh, engaging ways.
At America's Gates is the first book devoted entirely to both Chinese immigrants and the American immigration officials who sought to keep them out. Erika Lee explores how Chinese exclusion laws not only transformed Chinese American lives, immigration patterns, identities, and families but also recast the United States into a "gatekeeping nation." Immigrant identification, border enforcement, surveillance, and deportation policies were extended far beyond any controls that had existed in the United States before.
"Paper Angels dramatizes the human cost of Chinese Exclusion Act," The Seattle Times, August 7, 2015.
Rene Yung's "Golden Gate"- A performance by those impacted by the Chinese Exclusion Act