|Voices of the Chinese
The Exclusion Act and subsequent exclusionary legislation caused great suffering
for Chinese families split between two continents with little or no hope of
ever being reunited. Men who had been able to travel back and forth between
China and the United States were now afraid to leave the U.S. to visit their
wives, children, and parents in China for fear of not being allowed back into
the United States.
The poetry and songs express the anxiety and unhappiness of immigrants as
they waited for the immigration authorities to decide their fate.
Angel Island:Immigrant Journeys of Chinese
Americans has several short oral histories of immigrants who were detained on Angel
An additional resource that could be used is the story “In the Land
of the Free” by Sui Sin Far. The story tells of Chinese parents whose
infant son is taken by immigration officials, when the mother and child return
from China where the child was born, in the belief he is a
"paper son". The story can be found in Mrs. Spring Fragrance
and Other Writings by Sui Sin Far, edited by Amy Ling and Annette White-Parks.
The story can be assigned as homework or in class reading. The following
issues can be discussed with students.
What does the future hold for the characters in this story? Was the harrowing
experience of coming to the United States worth the initial heartache?
As a follow-up, students could write a paragraph about the life of the
characters ten years later.
Under what conditions would the students be willing to endure the
humiliating conditions and family separations experienced by
19th century Chinese
immigrants in order to move to a new country? Why were so many
history, willing to migrate?
How has United States immigration policy changed since the 1960s
to help families stay together, rather than tear them apart?
A timeline of immigration policy (Milestones) is included in
Discuss other instances in U.S. history when families have
been split up or kept apart as a matter of policy.