In Marin / FYI
A story from yesterday
offers perspective on
the troubles of today.
STORY AND PHOTOS
BY LAURIE MCANDISH KING
JOE CHAN WAN TS to meet you. He has a story to tell. Joe’s parents both entered the United States at Angel Island before he was born, and Joe grew up hearing their stories. He has since become an expert in the history of the Angel Island Immigration Station, and he volunteers as a docent, sharing the
story of his family — and that of hundreds of thousands of other families —
with visitors from around the world.
Remnants of those stories are still visible at the immigration station.
The barracks display historical re-creations of immigrants’ living quarters,
including a men’s game room that houses a ping-pong table, record player and
mahjong tiles. With a little gentle prodding, Joe will show you his parents’
Certificates of Identity, reproduced as delicate photo-etchings on a commemorative monument that lies between the old barracks and the sea.
Known as the Ellis Island of the West, the Angel Island Immigration Station
processed nearly a million immigrants from 82 countries between 1910 and
1940. But their treatment was in sharp contrast to the immigration experience
From top left: Docent Joe Chan
points out carved Chinese
characters, still legible under
many layers of paint; this
historical re-creation shows
the crowded conditions in the
Ellis Island of the West