Photo from California State Parks
By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent
Editor’s Note: This is now updated with a response from the Blue & Gold Fleet
AsAmNews has learned the only way to get to the historic Angel Island Immigration Station from San Francisco may be cut off.
The Blue & Gold Fleet announced on December 7 it had filed an application to discontinue its service from San Francisco to Angel Island.
The Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation opposes the move and is encouraging the public to file public comments to the California Public Utilities Commission.
“Not having direct ferry service from San Francisco to Angel Island is equivalent to not having direct ferry service from NYC to Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty, ” Edward Tepporn, Executive Director of the Foundation told AsAmNews. “We’ve already heard from several teachers that this will make it impossible for them to bring their students out to Angel Island when in-person visits and tours resume for field trips.”
Blue & Gold told AsAmNews this is an economic decision.
“Blue & Gold Fleet has seen declining ridership and increasing expenses for the past few years. The current difficult business climate, coupled with the mandatory COVID-19 six month shut down in March and expected slow recovery have exasperated this situation,” a spokeswoman said.
More than 500,000 immigrants went through Angel Island between 1910 and 1940 to be processed. More than half were Asian or Pacific Islander. Immigration officials subjected Asian immigrants to stricter scrutiny and more invasive medical examinations due to anti-Asian immigration laws. Guards detained them for longer periods and in much more crowded conditions than their European counterparts, according to Tepporn.
The National Park Service designated the Angel Island Immigration Station as a National Historic Landmark in 1997.
The discontinuation of service from San Francisco would leave only way to get to Angel Island, a ferry from Tiburon. Tiburon is an exclusive high income community across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. That ferry service is run by the Angel Island Tiburon Ferry Company.
Since Blue and Gold is also proposing eliminating its service from San Francisco to Tiburon, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation argues the only way to Angel Island would be to drive to Tiburon.
Tepporn cites 2016 Census data which indicated nearly 1 of every 3 households do not have a vehicle. He says on average, a one-way Uber ride from downtown San Francisco to the Tiburon Ferry Landing costs $45 one way.
The Blue & Gold Fleet, however, argues the discontinuation of its service will have little impact. It points out that another Ferry service takes passengers from San Francisco to Tiburon. However, AsAmNews checked that schedule and found the service currently runs only during commute hours.
The Blue & Gold Fleet also suggested passengers can take Water Taxis. Information from the Port Commission indicates that there is only one Water Taxi company servicing the Tiburon route. The service is currently shut down due to the pandemic. When it is operating, early reservations are highly recommended.
“Angel Island is a reminder of our nation’s complex history of exclusion and differential treatment of Asian immigrants,” said Tepporn. It’s feared the termination of ferry service to Angel Island from San Francisco would be yet another blow to the community.
After a multimillion dollar renovation, The site’s former hospital building has been renovated and has been turned into the Angel Island Immigration Museum. It will be free and is scheduled to open in 2021. It will be the first time the building has ever been opened to the general public.
Those wishing to comment on the proposed elimination of ferry service can do so here.
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