Illegal immigration in the United States has been one of the most apparent issues during mid 1800’s and until today. Chinese community is one of the most numbered illegal settlers or immigrants all over the world. Even in mid 1800’s during the years were there was a massive famine and poverty in China, many Chinese people immigrated in the United States for better lives. The United States during mid 1800’s was known for being “Gold Mountain” who offered thousands of work opportunities as urbanization and industrialization was starting to mount.
The big population of Chinese people who responded to the need of inexpensive labor in construction and transcontinental railroad created a strong competition between them and the American workers. As a result, U. S. government created laws restricting Chinese immigration unless they have family connections in the United States. Imprisonment to anyone has always been the ostensible punishment of the United States to the illegal immigrants or even to those still under investigation.
Over the years, many testimonies have been given to the world about the inhumane experiences, injustices or unreasonable treatment towards the Chinese prisoners accused of illegal immigration. Chinese immigration how millions of people around the globe apparently perceive United States as a land of opportunities who will give them hope and money. In history, the mark of Chinese immigrants detained at Angel Island is only a part of Chinese’s obsession to enter the land of opportunities.
Stiff immigration laws were passed towards Chinese people when many American workers resented the Chinese laborers for their willingness to work even for a cheaper wage. Though you can not blame them because they were in deep desperation to survive at that time since China was experiencing economic poverty but Chinese laborers were unconsciously monopolizing jobs. Chinese people were been discriminated and hated due to this that created racial tensions. As a result, the Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.
Basically the law restricted Chinese people to enter United States without family connections. But due to Chinese desperation to acquire work and send money home, “paper sons and daughters” were born. Many Chinese people who sought for entry brought false papers or documents to prove that they have a family connection residing in the United States. Moreover, Chinese residents would list numerous non existing sons and daughters in helping bringing others in U. S. Aware of this system, the U. S. Government critically inspected every Chinese individual entering the country.
Not just those who have authentic documents were allowed to enter but also those who passed by bribe. But those who were suspected since their claims could not be proven true or false were sent to Island Angel for further processing and interrogation. The unreasonable treatment towards the Chinese people in the Island Angel made the place more as a detention and deportation center making them literally prisoners. Officials at Angel Island with their suspicions that Chinese people were making fraud documents felt justified in treating the immigrants with contempt (Baumann).
When officials were unsatisfied with their testimonies, they will be immediately sent back to China. But those who stayed in the Angel Island were “interrogated at the barracks in a prison like atmosphere placed in a crowded communal living quarters for weeks, months and even years”. Many committed suicide because of humiliation. Moreover, “the interrogation process was very frightening for the detainees. The officers will ask them unreasonable and irrelevant questions to confuse and entrap them” (Lai, Lim, Yung 1991).