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Angel Island

A rugged outcropping in the San Francisco Bay remains a refuge hidden in plain sight

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In 1991, Ching, then 70, returned to Angel Island. His teenage grandchildren had asked that he show it to them. “I didn’t have the heart to turn them down,” Ching says. In the end, he made peace with the past, signing on as a volunteer at the Immigration Station Barracks Museum, which is now undergoing an ambitious $15 million renovation. In 1997, the station became one of only two Asian-American historic sites registered as national historic landmarks. (The other is Manzanar internment camp, where Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during World War II, near Independence, California.)

Until recently, Ching says, the immigration station’s role in shaping the West was virtually unknown. “Now,” he says, “we preserve this place—and it’s not just about the Chinese and their suffering. The island, the station, are part of the history of the United States. Everyone should know.”

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