Immigration Arrival Investigation Case Files

Collection Overview

Date Range: 1906-1913 (bulk 1913)
Geographical Coverage: Angel Island Immigration Station, San Francisco, California
Language(s): English (31)
Number of Items: 31
Item Types: , Uncategorized (31)
Collection Creator: Department of Justice. Immigration and Naturalization Service. San Francisco District Office.

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About the Collection

Collection Description
Case files created by the United States' Bureau of Immigration regarding 31 Indian men who immigrated to the US between 1906 and 1913. The men arrived in San Francisco via ship and were detained in federal custody while agency officials investigated them to determine whether to allow them entry or deport them as aliens. The 31 case files in this collection were created by federal agents to document their investigations. Of that number, 12 files relate to men who arrived on the S.S. Persia on July 29, 1913.

Files include correspondence, memoranda, medical certificates, and official photographs. Also included are documents submitted as evidence by the immigrants themselves such as letters of character and court filings. Of particular note are transcripts of interrogations conducted by federal agents; these documents record the words of the immigrant men telling their own histories, albeit filtered and edited by Bureau officials.

Each item record in this collection represents one case file; each case file may contain anywhere from one to 40 documents.


Biographical History
Case files were digitized from the “Immigration Arrival Case Files 1884-1944” subseries of the Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). From NARA’s description of the records:

"Arrival Case Files" document immigration agency investigations of persons applying to land and reside in the US. While the investigation proceeded, immigrants applying to enter the US at San Francisco were detained in Federal custody- initially on board their ships, during turn-of-century years at a substandard "detention shed," and during the years 1910-40 at the famous Angel Island Immigration Station. The case files contain documents created by agency officials during the investigations such as memoranda, interrogation testimony, and case cross-reference sheets, as well as documents which became part of the case file when submitted as evidence by the immigrants. The latter may include family photographs and marriage certificates. In some instances, there are "village maps" of ancestral home villages. There are also occasional instances in which "confession documents" generated during the early 1960s "correct the record" regarding immigrants who outwitted immigration officials by obtaining residential status under the "assumed identi[t]y" of a "paper son," etc.1

During the time period spanning SAADA’s collection of case files, immigration and naturalization functions were transferred among several executive agencies. In 1903, the Department of Treasury relinquished control of immigration functions after twenty-one years to the Department of Commerce and Labor. According to NARA’s administrative history:

Beginning [in 1882,] with the Chinese Exclusion Act...and the Immigration Act...Congress enacted a series of laws intending to restrict immigration into the United States of undesired alien groups, to forbid importation of contract laborers, and to provide a means for the apprehension and deportation of illegal immigrants, vesting their implementation in the Secretary of the Treasury, who carried out his responsibilities principally through state agencies. Office of the Superintendent of Immigration was established in the Department of the Treasury...to supervise the operation of immigration inspection stations, the medical inspection of immigrants, and the exclusion of undesirables.2

In 1913, the Bureau was transferred to the Department of Labor and separated into the Bureau of Immigration and the Bureau of Naturalization. The two units were re-consolidated in 1933 to form the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the new unit was absorbed into the Department of Justice in 1940.


1. Immigration Arrival Investigation Case Files, 1884-1944. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004, Record Group 85. National Archives Building, San Francisco. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/296445 (accessed October 24, 2016).

2. Administrative History for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004, Record Group 85. https://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/085.html#85.1 (accessed October 27, 2016).



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Related Materials

Collection Themes: Early Immigration (31)

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Administrative Information

Access & Use: Items in this SAADA collection are open for research. Items may not be sold or redistributed, copied or distributed as a photograph, electronic file, or any other media without express written consent from the copyright holder and the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA). The user is responsible for all issues of copyright.

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