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We the People: Angel Island

Alice K. Flanagan

Non-fiction (Series)

Ages 8 to 10

Compass Point Books, 2006, 0-7565-1261-1

  In 1910 an immigration station was built on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. Most of the immigrants who were detained there were Chinese, the people whom the authorities wanted to keep out of the United States because the public worried that the Chinese were taking jobs away from Americans.

  The Chinese began to come to America in the 1840’s, soon after gold was discovered in California. Believing stories they had heard about streets being paved with gold they left behind lives of hardship and poverty in China, hoping to find something better in California. Very few of the Chinese immigrants were able to get rich in the Gold Rush but they worked hard and found other ways to survive. Later Chinese came to America to work as laborers on the transcontinental railroad, as farm laborers, and as small business owners in San Francisco.

  There came a time however when Chinese immigrants were no longer welcome. The Chinese already in the United States were often treated very badly and laws were passed to prevent the arrival of new Chinese immigrants unless they were immigrants who were deemed acceptable by the authorities. This was when the facility at Angel Island was set up.

  The authorities were particularly interested in determining which of the arrivals where bona fide relatives of Chinese residents living in the Unites States and which of them were relatives on paper only. Each new arrival was therefore thoroughly questioned about their family connections in addition to being given a health check. Paper relatives would study for these interrogations very carefully but many of them would be tripped up and were sent back to China. Detention at Angel Island could last for months or even years. Being forced to stay at the badly maintained detention facility for an unknown amount of time was a terrible experience for the people who were kept there.

  In this well written title in the “We the People” series, the author tells the story of Angel Island and of the Chinese people who came through that facility. She explains what brought the Chinese to America in the first place and why the Angel Island facility was built in response to the influx of Chinese immigrants. Written with care and understanding, this sensitive account is an excellent addition to the “We the People” series.

We the people Angel Island


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