A journey across the Pacific Ocean has many stops including Honolulu, Manila, Yokohama, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Many passengers could barely afford their travel tickets alone and needed help of relatives and neighbors. They all believed one thing: that they could make that money back quickly in America. Other immigrants came from the Punjab, Russia, the Philippines, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Latin America.
Mr. Lowe was 16 years old when he was detained in 1939.
“I had nothing to do there. During the day, we stared at the scenery beyond the barbed wires – the sea and the sky and the clouds that were separated from us. Besides listening to the birds outside the fence, we could listen to records and talk to old-timers in the barracks. Some, due to faulty responses during the interrogation and lengthy appeal procedures, had been there for a few years. They poured out their sorrow unceasingly. Their greatest misery stemmed from the fact that most of them had had to borrow money for their trips to America. Some mortgaged their houses; some sold their land’ some had to borrow at such high interest rates that their family had to sacrifice. A few committed suicide in the detention barracks.”
Mr. Lee was 26 years old when he was detained in 1921.
“I really didn’t want to come, but my father bought me a paper. I figured I’d come and stay for three months or so and go back. My father and three uncles were already here in the United States. The man who claimed me as his son came from Mexico. There were some contradictions in our testimonies, so we hired an attorney. It was no use. They deported me, along with the old-timers who had gone back home and come back but were found to be infected by hookworm. I left my home on the sixth day of the sixth moon and I returned on the sixth day of the sixth moon the following year. It was exactly one year.”
Mrs. Maruer helped immigrants on Angel Island for nearly 30 years.
“There were local Americans who visited the Immigration Station, the most helpful and famous being Deaconess Katherine Maurer. Known as the “Angel of Angel Island,” she was appointed by the Women’s Home Missionary Society to do welfare work on the island in 1912. She worked full-time until 1940, when the station closed. Her main duty was to give English lesions, but she also eased the fear of the detainees buy bringing items such as soap, toothbrushes, and stationery. She also brought games and dolls for the children. The district director stated, “Much credit is due to the fine welfare work carried on by Miss Maurer at this immigration station.”
Mr. Tong was 20 years old when he was detained in 1932.
“When I was there, we were treated very poorly. For example, other people, such as Italians and Japanese, were provided with toilet paper and soap; just the Chinese didn’t have it. We had to have it sent down to us from San Francisco. Because I had been there for six-months, I was elected President of the Self-Governing Organization. We thought this was not very fair, so with some other officers of the Organization, I went and successfully negotiated for toilet paper and soap.”
Mr. Dea was 26 years old when he was detained in 1939.
“In general, the feelings were: one, an eagerness to leave and go on to San Francisco, and two, to get the interrogation over with. Until then, no one was very happy. At the time, we did no understand America’s immigration laws. We were told that we had to come through Angel Island. Most did not think to protest. If the food was bad, we put up with it. Out treatment wasn’t cruel, so we just endured the period and hoped for it to pass. Only those who were detained and separated from relatives for a long time and who were going through the appeal process after spending a lot of money to come in the first place suffered. They were the ones who wrote the angry and bitter poems. But looking back now at how the United States treated Chinese and Asian Immigrants, we can see how unequal and unfair the treatment was.”