An Overwhelming Experience – Adam Thomson

The drive into the center of the Nation’s capital will never fail to turn me into a little kid. I’ve done it a handful of times now but I still find myself gawking out the windows as we drive by every historical monument that until three years ago I had only seen on the big screen. However, today was different. In contrast to taking the touristy front entrance (much like Nicolas Cage in National Treasure – the last reference to the movie, I promise) we entered through the back door of the National Archives and were subsequently greeted with access to the greatest amount of historical data and sources that I have ever had access too. 

To say I was little overwhelmed would be the understatement of the century. Prior to this excursion I liked to think that I was quite good and interpreting and internalising the knowledge gained from both primary and secondary sources as a historian. Upon opening my first box I came to the realisation that I was now doing ‘Real History’ for lack of a better term. Let me explain, this is no way in a slight to the various courses and Professors that have taught me before but the research projects I have completed in previous semesters have always been very controlled and heavily directed. The best analogy I could think of to describe this is being a dog on a leash. These courses give you a limited degree of freedom to stop and smell various sources but do not allow you to run off and chase the big questions and get lost in the woods of primary source analysis. That is the very same problem that I found myself dealing with on Friday, I was so deep into the woods I could no longer see where I entered from and everything started to look the same. 

To branch away from this extended metaphor, I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that was available for my group’s research. While I managed to find some information that will be pertinent and valuable to our final project, when we make our second trip to the archives next month. I will have to be much more organised and focused in my research methods. As with most things in life, you can’t expect to be great at something you’ve never done before and the only way to get better is to practice. 

One of the most interesting cases that I came across after I broke through monotonous and honestly excessive amount of early 20thAmerican government bureaucracy was concerning the deportation of two immigrants through Angel Island. Two women by the name of Leong Hui Hing and Mrs. Rosalina Perez whom had entered through El Paso both were being deported for overstaying their immigration bond but were being held in the hospital at Angel Island as they were deemed unfit for deportation by the on-site Doctor, Rose Goong Wong. As Hing had pneumonia and Perez was suffering from langutetos. I found this specific case interesting as previously I had only thought of Angel Island a port of entry as opposed to a deportation station. Secondly this case perked my interest when I first read it as it was overseen by a doctor of Asian heritage and prior to our in class discussion this week I did not think that immigrants and their children would be a part of the immigration and deportation process. 

Archive Blog Post #1 Alyx Wilson

Professor Moon’s 449 class took our first trip to the National Archives in Washington D.C., Friday September 27, 2019. I did not know what to expect exactly while on the drive up there, but I wasn’t disappointed when we got into the research room. It got a bit stressful when I received my first box of records. There was just a medium sized box filled with papers that were over 100 years old on real people sitting in front of me on a desk. Honestly I did not know what to expect with the contents in these files. When I got comfortable on what I was looking for and how to quickly figure out which records I had use for and those I didn’t, I got the hand of things pretty quick.

At first going to the Archives seemed fun; just looking at pieces of paper with peoples lives on them. Once I started looking through them and looking at the dates on those records, the little history nerd in me got really excited because those papers were old. Some records had handwritten letters from the immigrant in question, there were little doctors slips from when they were inspected and told exactly what the medical problem was of each person, and I even found building and street layouts in one file when there were plans to make the Public Health, Immigration, and Customs all in one stop in El Paso. One example is of Dr. Isaac Rivera and his family[1]. He was a doctor from Mexico who wanted to enter the States to buy things for his store back home and to have a surgery performed on his son. They were denied access because his store was affiliated to Germans, pro-Germans, and Anti-Americans. He hand wrote a four-page letter expressing his expulsion of the United States.

[1]Commissioner General, New York, N.Y., to Inspector at El Paso, Texas., 1919, File 54671/7, Subject Correspondence, 1906-1932, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington, DC).

Archival Experience 1

Erin Andrewlevich

Working in the archives was a fascinating experience! Going into it, I was not completely sure what I was going to be looking at, what I needed to look for, and how to find the things I needed for our research, but after a short period of looking through the files, I quickly was able to make sense of the process I would need to do this research. I only looked through about two and a half folders but there was so much information. The strategy I devised was mainly to scan the papers in each file quickly and take pictures of anything I thought could potentially be useful, which ended being quite a lot. I decided I would go through the pictures and sort through information at a later time because I wanted to make the most of my experience at the archives and get through as much information as possible while I was there. I would rather have left the archives with too much information than too little.

The first file I looked (55,188-107) at was a case file involving a man named Joe Low. It was a habeous corpus file about him and his family being held in the detention center at Angel Island in 1922. He and his family were immigrants from China and were deported. This study could be beneficial to our project as it deals with one of the most prevalent immigrant groups that came through Angel Island and details the direct impacts of immigration restrictions on the people effected. The next few files I looked at contained information about the facilities at Angel Island (55,166-343). These files detailed the potential movement of the immigration center from Angel Island to somewhere else on the mainland. These sections also specified the internal operations of the island as well as many of the problems with the facility as it was operating such as the lack of funding which I think will be very helpful in our project.

Working with history in this context was also a new experience for me that I really enjoyed. I loved being able to see actual history and touch actual documents. It really put the topics we are learning and talking about in class in a new perspective. Researching this content for myself made the history seem so much more real. I got to look at all the documents (including the ones that are just extraneous), I was the one who got to decide what was important, and I get to make sense of all. I’m excited to go back in October because I know we will have more time for researching that day, and I will know better how and what to look for in the archives. Also, our group will probably have a better basis for out project by then which will help me narrow down my research further.

National Archives Blog Post 1- Cassie Haynes

At the National Archives I came across a few interesting pieces of documentation. I found a few files that were on the exclusion and detainment of East Indian crew members. File 55179-40 talks about the detainment of a crew aboard a British steamer. This crew was detained at the port of Norfolk, Virginia and held on bond. The bond for the 21 members cost 10,500 since they were left at the port while their vessel moved on to the next port. They were eventually picked up by their ship and returned to England causing the bond to be canceled.  Another file 55179-41 also talked about crew members who left their ship and were picked up, 20 of them left the ship and four others deserted the ship. They were jailed until they could be put on a ship sent to England and the bond was also canceled for this group. These two files bring up the point that those who are on a ship are not able to leave it without being detained. It seems however, to mostly be associated with those of Asian descent as all these men were.

There were also other documents that were exclusion records and many people were denied entry because they were listed as L.P.C.’s. Those who were denied were either women who came by themselves or were young boys who entered the country under the age of 16. Finally, I looked at certificates that were on border crossings. Most of the crossing certificates dealt with those who worked for businesses and needed to go into Canada for work.

  1. File 55149-40, Subject and Policy files, 1893-1957, Records of Immigration and naturalization Services, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington, DC).
  2. File 55149-41, Subject and Policy files, 1893-1957, Records of Immigration and naturalization Services, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington, DC).

National Archive Blog Post #1

Sean Thomas

On Friday September 27th, our class went on our first trip to the National Archives in DC for our research project. It was an incredible experience and was the first time that I have done archival research and been able to go through historical documents. However, while doing the work was very interesting to me, the result of my research was rather dry. This was my first time doing work in an archive, so It took me a while to get into the groove of searching through documents. One mistake that I now understand I made was that I looked at every file in order that was in my box. In the future however, I will first pull out the files that we as a group requested because those ones we know will contain useful information. However, reading through all of the files resulted in me only making it through one box, and only finding one file that we could use.

The one relevant case file I did find however was a very interesting one. It involved an eighteen year old Mexican man named Frank Miller. He had a passport, and legally crossed the border into the US everyday in order to work, returning to Mexico at night where he lived. However, one day he decided not to return to Mexico, which is why he was deported. What connects this file to our case was the fact that another reason given for his deportation was the fact that Frank had Syphilis, a disease that was used as the basis for deportation and denial of entry.

Assistant Commissioner General, New York, N.Y., to Inspector at El Paso, Texas., 1918, File 54395- 73, accession E9, Subject Correspondence, 1906-1932, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington, DC).

National Treasure Trip #1—–Anisha DeSilva

The first National Archive’s trip was such an exciting experience. I found that files not only varied in size or thickness but even contained recommendations, bonds statements and pictures. Though I was not fortunate to find files on my group’s research topic, the rest of my group was able to. One of the files was about a Portuguese East Indian, Gastano P. Moronan, entering Ellis Island in 1918.  He was 26 years old and was born on the island of Goa. Also, his last job was a marine chief chef on the ship, Murphy, in Port-au-Spain, Trinidad. The only documents he was carrying was his identification card and a passport. When reading this file, I became very interested in his classification as a ‘Portuguese East Indian.’ I think that Moronan was trying to use ‘Portuguese’ to either elevate or separate him from the racial status as an East Indian. Claiming a more ‘white’ race could possibly push his inspector to overlook that he’s native to a country included in the Barred Zone Act of 1917.

The most interesting question that asked Moronan was asked during his interview was why he didn’t ask the American Consul to give him new papers. Earlier in his questioning, he previously told the Inspector that he lost all his documents in the burning of Murphy. In response to that question, he said, “The American Consul said that (indicating passport) his ok oh.”[1] This answer I believe is one of the factors that lead Inspector Bruno and the Board to exclude him from the United States. In addition, his lack of documents also made him look very suspicious too. The ambiguity on whether his passport was a valid means of identification, demonstrates how the administration manipulated laws and their meanings. 

[1]Bruno, Ellis Island, Immigrant Inspector, New York Harbor, N.Y., December 7, 1918, File 54436-253; Court Transcript, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, (National Archives, Washington, DC.)

National Archive Center post #1

Paul Hogue

The trip to the National Archive Center, in Washington, D.C., was very informational. My goal was to find documents about early South Asian immigration to the East Coast including marriage records and ship manifest. I was able to discover essential documents from these early 1900’s immigrants from Europe and East Asia that included: marriage records, letters between couples, ship manifest, deportation letters from the government, and letters between immigrants and the Department of Labor discussing citizenship status.  From that research, I came across a letter between the Board of Special Inquiry and Gastano P. Moronan, an immigrant from Goa, Portuguese, East India, translated from Portuguese to English it discusses his reasoning to remain in the United State.

The document reveals the conversation between Mr. Moronan and an inspector from the Department of Labor giving his reasoning of why Mr. Moronan should stay in America. The inspector, a man only listed as Bruno, ask Mr. Moronan standard questions such as; do you have relative in this country, how long have you been in the country, “do you have a seamen book or any discharges with you”[1] (he was able to provide papers confirming that he is a seaman) and do you have proof of papers. Overall, he was asked standard question that would be asked in an immigration court, pertaining to if he is eligible to stay in America.  The document shows in detail the court battles new immigrants had to go through in order to stay, if they were eligible to stay in America.

While looking at these documents, I noticed that they were immigrants that moved from Europe to Ellis Island, Manhattan, and Philadelphia. These documents disclosed reasons why each person wanted to stay in United States. For example, one stated that a man by the name Emile Taggbert, an immigrant from Switzerland, wanted to stay in United States because he was married to an American woman. His wife wrote a letter to the Department of Labor defending him so that he would not be deported; another document showed a letter of deportation from the Secretary of Labor stating that he had the right to appeal his deportation.

Hopefully, on the next trip to the National Archive Center, I can find more primary sources from South Asians immigrating to the East Coast. I will be able to find more material that consists of South Asian ship manifests, marriage records, letters of deportation, or letters to the Secretary of Labor petitioning for them to stay. I believe these are important because it gives an essential understanding of who they are and why they came to the United States. It also gives reasoning to why they left their countries of origin and came to the United States, and if they have any family that already immigrated to the United States previously.

[1] Bruno, Ellis Island, Immigrant Inspector, New York Harbor, N.Y., December 7, 1918, File 54436-253; Court Transcript, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, (National Archives, Washington, DC.)

National Archives Trip !

William Roszell

The first trip our group took was an exciting adventure that provided information for our research project. My focus of the study was on the operating procedures at the El Paso immigration station. I examined four files that benefited our overall group project. These files focused on the correspondence between multiple Immigration stations regarding Rule 16 of the Chinese Exclusion act. The file proposed changes and omissions to the wording of the rule — another record held correspondence from Galveston, Texas, and problems with Chinese entering through San Francisco. Case File 53,775-177 was the expenditure report for the Immigration station at Angel Island. The Angel Island case file did not directly impact our project but was able to assist with other groups. The Case File 53,775-178 provided immigration interrogation files from New Orleans, Ellis Island, and Pennsylvania. These documents provided direct communication and questions posed by Immigration officials for immigrants coming through these stations.

The case file 53,775-202A and 202B provided me with correspondence between Thomas Weiss, who was collecting and transporting immigrants who were being deported and taking them to their deportation stations. This file provided me with the names of individuals and locations that I can hopefully use to get more information with regards to El Paso’s immigration station.

Blog post I

Erick Boscana

My first impression of the National Archives was the level of bureaucracy and red tape at every level, which honestly should not have surprised me given that it’s part of the federal government, It truly seemed as though you could not go anywhere in that building without encountering a scanner or someone waiting for you to sign in or a guard eyeing you warily; although I appreciate the dedication to the security and sanctity of the Archives and their contents, I was not comforted by the idea that no matter where I went there were cameras recording my every move. When we finally arrived in the research room we were met with even more rules and standard practices, down to how you arrange your desk. All of this was quite an overwhelming experience but I was soon able to adjust. 

As for the records themselves, my first box was quite frustrating because it did not contain any records on South Asians. That first box did help me discover how to best screen each record for content and to determine if it would be useful to our project. Thankfully, I had a lucky break in my second box, where I discovered a rather large file on a few different cases regarding South Asians. The case regards six South Asians caught in Detroit in July 1919. After a brief court trial, in which only one of the six speaks English and only two are represented by an attorney, the six of them are ordered deported. The one who can speak English, Abdul Samed, who was also the one who obtained the attorney was the only one to file an appeal against this decision. Over the next two years, Samed remains in jail while his attorney files a habeas corpus injunction in an attempt to gain Samed’s freedom. The injunction is massively delayed and in 1922, Samed obtains another attorney who inquires about the case and manages to get Samed another trial. In this trail, Samed is presented alongside another group of South Asians, who are not the same people as his original trial, and the judge ruled for the deportation of the group and to allow Samed to remain in the U.S.. Interestingly this file shows evidence of the influence of the Barred Zone Act on how Samed is presented and shows many different individuals and their reasons for coming to the U.S. and how many of them did not intend to immigrate but got left behind from their ships. 1

1 File 54734, Subject and Policy Files, 1893-1957, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington, DC).

Archival Experience #1- Ellora Larsen

           Our first archival experience offered us the opportunity to get a better understanding of the immigration experience that we would not get through secondary sources on their own. Getting the opportunity to read primary sources that most people do not get the chance to read was a great experience. The files I looked at were a mix of transport files of people going through San Francisco through Angel Island to either leave the United States for China or Mexico mainly. The information talks about the person being on angel island or being processed through but that was mainly all that the files said. The second box of files was slightly more helpful. The second box looked at Habeas Corpus proceedings on Angel Island and had actual interviews of people who were detained. All of the cases that I read were either for children coming into the country or women who were coming to meet up with husbands or fiancés. One case that was different than the others was the case of Ing Foo who was a Chinese nurse that came to San Francisco in 1920 with a family as a personal nurse and she was declared an LPC and was not allowed into the country.[1] The family was managed to get the case reviewed and she was later allowed to stay for a two month period with the family and then she would have to leave the country.

            Another interesting case was the 1920 case of Chosei Miyagausuku who was a fourteen-year-old male from Japan.[2] He was considered an LPC because he was brought over to live with his adopted father. He entered Mexico in 1907 and was illegally brought in to the United States in April 1910 at night to evade inspection. His blood parents were still alive and living in Japan. When he arrived on Angel Island on September 25, 1919, on the Persoa Maru, he was promptly questioned and was actually questioned twice about his stories because he had discrepancies between his and his adopted fathers stories. This was later excused because he was a child and was excited and nervous about entering a new country and so Miyagausuku was allowed entry into the united states. It was an interesting case to read due to the concern that they thought he could be being brought into the United States to be a worker since laborers were not allowed in if they brought in able workers through adoption, that would get them into the country.

            Both of these files give us context into what kind of people were being held on Angel Island. They also tell us how people overturn their deportation and be allowed entrance into the country. While these articles do not give us explicit information on the operations of Angel Island, hopefully, they will add to our understanding of Angel Island and further our research.

[1] Ing Foo, Chinese nurse, 1920. File 54686-56, accession E9, subject correspondence, 1906-1932, Records of the immigration and naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington, D.C).

[2] Chosei Miyagausuku, 1920. File 54686-64, accession E9, subject correspondence, 1906-1932, Records of the immigration and naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington, D.C).