Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"At America's Gates"-Erica Lee

I just finished a great book by Erica Lee called " At America's Gates " published in 2003. It is the story of the Chinese during the Exclusion era and is very topical reading in light of the current immigration debates concerning Mexican immigration . In fact, Erica Lee feels that the current way we look at immigration and immigration issues was born in the way our country handled Chinese immigration .
The racist nature of the Exclusion laws and immigration practices are detailed as well as the lengths that Chinese went to circumvent the laws and restrictions in order to come to America.

My great grandfather , Jue Joe, immigrated to the US in 1874 and was subject to the Exclusion laws passed in 1882 and 1892 and thereafter and the story of how he travelled back and forth to China despite the Exclusion laws make for interesting reading in our family blog. My grandfather , his mother and his brother , immigrated to the US in 1918 and were detained and questioned on Angel Island . The Angel Island era also has a prominent part in this book . I recommend it highly .

Here is an interesting picture of coaching materials smuggled to detainees at Angel island in hollowed out bananas .

A chapter in the book details the little known history of Chinese immigrants smuggled across the Canadian and Mexican borders. One way of getting Chinese across was to disguise them as Mexicans . Here is a picture from the National Archives.

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