This Day In History: January 21

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Referred to as the "Ellis Island of the West," Angel Island in California's San Francisco Bay opens January 21, 1910, as America's major port of entry for Asian immigrants. Over the next 30 years, an estimated 100,000 Chinese and 70,000 Japanese are processed through the station.

Established as a military reserve during the Civil War, 20 acres of 740-acre island was transferred for use as an immigrant station in 1905, according to the National Parks Service.

With San Francisco serving as a key immigration entry point for Asian immigrants, Angel Island, located 6 miles off the city's coast, was a preferred location for a station over the mainland. "Its location allowed for greater control over immigrant entry to the U.S., prevented immigrants on the island from communicating with immigrants on the mainland, and slowed the introduction of new or deadly diseases to the general population," according to the parks service.

After arriving by ship in the bay, immigrants without official documentation were ferried to the island where, the parks service notes, they were quarantined by race and sex "regardless of familial bonds" with children younger than 12 allowed to remain with their mothers. Medical examinations and other hearings could take days to years in a "prison-like environment."

In 1940, the station was moved to mainland San Francisco, and Angel Island is now a California state park.

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