ANGEL ISLAND, Calif. — As he sailed on a ferry to
"It takes every generation of native-born folks to recognize, you know, there's something to learn from our own history," Fong said. "Because if we don't know our history, we're destined to repeat it."
The friar at Oakland's St. Elizabeth Catholic Church was one of about 350 people, nearly all of them Chinese-Americans, who took a pilgrimage recently to the island's old immigration station. They prayed, shared stories and sought to make connections between the plight of Asian immigrants who faced discrimination a century ago and the challenges faced by newcomers today.
"I think the challenges are very similar," Fong said. "Obviously, the time is different. The circumstances are different. The nations providing the immigrants are different, but in many ways we have the same fears, the same anxieties about why these people are coming and what are we going to do about them."
Opened in 1910 and closed in 1940, the
Those who made it through faced harsh rhetoric as local newspapers and political groups railed against them, blaming them for various social and economic problems.
The organizers of the pilgrimage see parallels between the inflamed passions over Asians a century ago and the political climate today for new immigrants.
"The rhetoric is curiously the same to me," said the Rev.
You could lift some of today's anti-immigrant signs and slogans, she said, from those targeting Chinese a century ago.
Some Chinese-Americans in the
"I don't think it has anything to do with race," said Union City accountant
Ng joined the Golden Gate Minutemen this year, adding herself to the ranks of a movement determined to stop illegal crossings of the U.S. border.
"I understand not everybody can come in, but then again, life is not fair," Ng said. "We should continue welcoming immigrants. We just have to do it smart."
Few polls have asked Chinese-Americans what they
think about contemporary immigration controversies, but those that do
find a community that is split. Chinese-American registered voters in
About 54 percent of Chinese-American voters in
"Many Chinese-Americans are struggling, as well," said
Yeh, who was born in
The debate today is not comparable, she said, with what happened many decades ago.
"Now, there are so many circumstances that warrant some sort of moratorium," Yeh said. "It's not as much of a labor-based economy. It's a high-tech economy, which requires less work."
(c) 2010, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).
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