Academic journal article Chinese America: History and Perspectives

Detention at Angel Island: First Empirical Evidence

Academic journal article Chinese America: History and Perspectives

Detention at Angel Island: First Empirical Evidence

Article excerpt

This paper draws on new data found in ledgers of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company for the period from 1913 to 1919, representing over 29,000 of its 'alien passengers" (including native-born American Chinese) coming from Asia and from Central America. The Federal government charged the PMSS for upkeep of its passengers at the Angel Island Immigration Station from which we can determine which passengers were detained, how long they were detained, and under which "exempt" status Chinese passengers were allowed to enter the United States.

The data, representing fewer than 10 percent of those who were detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station during its thirty years as a functioning immigration service facility, confirm our basic impression of Angel Island: that Chinese made up most of the detainees and were detained longer than other groups. But the data also add interesting and important new findings.

We now know for certain that many Chinese were not detained at all. Most Chinese were detained for relatively short periods, the median period of detention for Chinese being six days, with a relatively small number held for rather long periods. …

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