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ISLAND, Calif. _Dale Ching was a teenager in 1937 when he rode on a steamer bound for America from China. For 22 days, he dreamed about San Francisco, fortified by the knowledge that his father was waiting for him there.
But when his boat docked in San Francisco's bay, he didn't see his father. Instead, his welcoming committee was a group of armed guards who ordered him and other Chinese immigrants to board a boat bound for Angel Island, where he was detained.
Ching is one of 175,000 Chinese immigrants who entered this country between 1910 and 1940 through the Angel Island Immigration Station, often called the Ellis Island of the West. They came to escape war and famine in their homeland. But once in America, they were subjected to interrogations, and some were held for as long as three or four years.
"Life here was harsh," Ching said recently during a tour of the immigration station.
"When we landed at Angel Island, the guards took away our suitcases. We were allowed the clothes we had on and one change of underwear."
Days after he arrived on the island, Ching learned that he could not leave because his description of his family's house in China did not match what his uncle had told immigration authorities. Officials, suspicious of immigrants entering the United States using false identity papers, detained Ching for three months before his father successfully petitioned officials for his release.
Greeted with scorn
While immigrants coming to America through Ellis Island were welcomed by the Statue of Liberty, Chinese immigrants here had no such symbol, and many felt the sting of scorn and discrimination.
"The stories of Angel Island are not as welcoming, obviously, as it is on the East …