NETWORK OF ENTERTAINING ASIAN AMERICAN TALENT
“Icame to America hoping to make this land my home…
But now they come and say to me I am no longer an American citizen.
Now what am I? We cannot exercise our rights.
Obstacles this way, blockades that way, and bridges burned behind.”
-Vaisho Das Bagai’s letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, 1928.
These lines appeared on the screen as one of the slides in Erika Lee and Judy Yung’s presentation on September 21, 2010, of Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, illustrating that immigration issues is by no means a contemporary one.
The scholars Lee and Yung took the audience on a brief tour through the history of the Angel Island immigration station. Not as well-known among the American public as Ellis Island, Angel Island processed a diversity of immigrants, not just those from Asia and the Pacific like the Chinese paper sons. With immigrants from Russia, Korea, Mexico, the Philippines, China, Japan and many other countries, Angel Island saw many individuals and their families in its detention centers.
And while there are those detained for months at a time, unable to get in touch with family, and while there are those who are deported, there are also those of the merchant class like Vaisho Das Bagai who, with adequate financial resources, were accepted into American society and granted citizenship. However, it’s unfortunate that, through the SCOTUS case United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, Vaisho retroactively lost his citizenship like many other South Asian Americans and committed suicide.
Lee and Yung also highlighted several other individual cases of Chinese, Mexican, Russian immigrants, among others. They noted that origin of nationality is not always the determining factor in the immigration process, socioeconomic status, for example, is another.
For those who missed the event, videos are available below and on our YouTube Channel.
Angel Island and the Chinese