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Contra Costa Times: Angel Island Immigration Station observes 100-year anniversary

January 22, 2010

Caroline Diericx of Belgium drapes herself in a U.S. flag in the lobby after the ceremony swearing in new citizens. (IJ photo/Frankie Frost)

Mark Prado writes for the Contra Costa Times:

SAN FRANCISCO – The Angel Island Immigration Station celebrated a 100-year anniversary Thursday in a fitting way: More than 100 people were sworn in as new citizens of the United States.

But the anniversary, held at the Herbst Theater, was bittersweet for some.

The Angel Island station was built after passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a race-based doctrine that limited immigration. While some were welcomed to America, others – typically Asians – found themselves stuck on Angel Island for months, or years in some cases.

That made Charles Zhang of Fremont even more proud to be sworn in as a citizen during Thursday’s ceremony.

“It’s very important for me to become a citizen here today as we honor the immigration station,” said Zhang, from China, who wore a red carnation along with other new citizens. “It means a lot, especially if you consider what others went through.”

Robert Hong, 85, did not have it so easy becoming a citizen.

As an 11-year-old he was stuck on Angel Island for several weeks.

“It’s a bit of nostalgia here today, we have 100 people going through what I did, but it was different for me,” said the Stockton resident, who eventually made it into the country, attended the University of California at Berkeley, served in the U.S. Air Force and then worked for the Internal Revenue Service. “I was on the island or two months waiting to be interrogated. It was a little scary for a 11-year-old boy. But I just had to wait my turn.”

The immigration station’s history has been recognized. President Barack Obama issued a proclamation in honor of what has become known as the “Ellis Island of the West.” [Read the rest of the article here.]

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Additional article from the San Francisco Chronicle: Angel Island, landmark of U.S. diversity

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