Opposite Ellis Island on the East Coast of the United States, the West Coast harbored Angel Island, another immigration station, in San Francisco’s North Bay. Here, immigrants from countries across the Pacific, such as China, Japan, and the Philippines, arrived and were processed before assuming life in the United States. Angel Island ushered in only 300,000 immigrants, whereas Ellis Island’s numbers reached about 12 million, yet more immigrants that passed through Angel Island were deported at a rate of 11-30%, compared to those from Ellis Island, of which only 1-2% were deported.
Whereas Ellis Island’s history of welcoming European immigrants to the U.S. carries a positive connotation, Angel Island’s history is decidedly more depressing; it served as a station in which many arriving immigrants were detained upon arrival. During this time, these immigrants wrote poetry upon the walls documenting their feelings regarding their imprisonment, contrasting with their hopeful attitudes toward their immigration to America. All of these poems carry a depressing tone tinged with feelings of hope and almost-regret, as the writers wondered if they would ever be released and given the freedom they so desperately sought in making the long voyage to America. In addition to the poem showcased below, more poetry from Angel Island can be found here.