A permanent installation on immigration in Seattle tells the story of the people and the process of immigration through the building that was the United States Immigration Station & Assay Office. Signs throughout the building mark significant locations and feature images of the sites before the building was transformed from detention center to creative community. In addition, four artists have contributed pieces that shed light on immigration in various, fascinating ways: a graphic novel, a sound installation, silkscreen prints and encaustic paintings.
Share the experiences of the people who walked the halls before us. Visit Inscape Arts for upcoming Open Studios. Project oral histories and related research available through the Governor Gary Locke Library & Community Heritage Center at The Wing.
Signs throughout the building include:
1. Confiscated Materials | You Can’t Bring That in Here
2. Basement | Search Me
3. Processing Room | Booking In
4. Isolation Cell | Restraint
5. Basement | Stay to the Yellow Line
6. East Stairwell | Securing the Building
7. Swearing-In Room | How Does It Feel to Become a Citizen?
8. Swearing-In Room | How Does It Feel to Become a Citizen?
9. Waiting Room | Is It My Turn Yet?
10. Counter Area | Welcome
11. Counter Area | How Can I Help You?
12. File Room | File This Away
13. Detention Cell East | Detention Dormitories
14. Bathroom East | The Basics of Institutional Life
15. Hospital Room | Good Health
16. Courtyard East | Making a Mark
17. Storage Closet | Making Every Space Count
18. Long-Term Detention Area | 2 Charles
19. Control Room | Keeping Control
20. Detention Cell Center | Short-Timers
21. Detention Cell Center | This Is a Prison, Isn’t It?
22. Courtyard West| Ways to Escape
23. Long-Term Detention Area | Long-Term Detention
24. Detention Cell West | Immigrants Helping Immigrants
25. Isolation Cells | Solitary Confinement
26. Dining Hall and Kitchen | Institutional Food for a World Community
27. Dining Hall and Kitchen | Hunger Strike!
28. Library | Not Much to Read but You Can Research
29. Immigration Court and Visitation Area | Judges & Families
30. Check-In Wall | Taking Care of Business
31. Office of Assistant District Director | Fighting Against Indefinite Detention
32. Office of Assistant District Director | Fighting Against Indefinite Detention
33. Assay Office | Gold!
34. Vault | From Gold to Guns
35. Attic | Are There Ghosts in the Building?
Seattle INS Building's Stories on Your Story, Our Story
Community members who experienced the INS Building first-hand share their reflections on the Building’s past, present and future. Visit our Your Story, Our Story page to explore the stories and add your own story. To access their full oral histories, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or 206.623.5124 ext 117.
What do you think about the old Immigration Building?
That was the building that gave you life. – Dolly Castillo, Philippines
That dichotomy between the happiness and sadness is the beauty of the building. – David Ayala, El Salvador
There is a lot of sadness in that building, but there is also solidarity. – Jacque Larrainzar, Mexico
The building is a good memory for lots of people… Keeping the building and using it for something else can help a younger generation to learn what older people went through. – LiChang Wong, China
It’s good to see [the building] dismantled. I hope the whole system is dismantled someday, and we can just live on the planet as brothers and sisters like we’re meant to. – Jay Stansell, United States
Kids go to visit different museums, and this one should be a part of that. They will come back to us and say, do you know anything about that building, daddy or mommy? – Mohamed Sheikh Hassan, Somalia
Everyone in the U.S. should know something about the history of the U.S. immigration system… [We] need some way to work out who comes and goes, in a less bureaucratic, more humane, and more fair, truly fair way. – Vivien Sharples, England
Ah, for me, what a scary place! Because you could be deported… I would have preferred [a] total museum [where] people go and feel the spirit, where you just feel the space, its walls, and you can say, oh, this is [the] interview [room], and this is the jailhouse. – Seyed Mohamed Maulana, Kenya
I felt - I’m trying to find the right word - not sadness, but you know, “Wow, that’s a part of my history gone. It’s going to become something else.” And another part of me felt, if the building is put to good use, go ahead… to see that building and not have the skin-crawling experience every time I pass by. – Mozhdeh Oskouian, Iran
Using [the building to] bring art closer to citizens, that’s wonderful. I think that’s a win-win situation. – Mikio Tajima, Japan
It was gratifying to see my dad be able to have what you would consider closure, a resolution… Now there’s a full completion to the story, to revisit the building and to know what’s become of [it] since. – Emiko Tajima, United States
The new immigration [building in Tukwila]…is new and fresh, a state-of-the-art facility, but it’s lifeless… [The old] building was full of energy. – Denis Batyuchenko, former Soviet Union
I have mingled with many hundreds of people that go through that door, whether applying for citizenship or whether even detainees. So every time I drive past, it brings back memories. – Joseph Pham, Vietnam
Related Materials - Seattle INS Building
"Inscape Used to Be a Prison for Immigrants. Now It's a Home for Artists." Katie Herzog, The Stranger. March 14, 2018.
"The grim history of INS Building." Meg Van Huygen, Curbed Seattle. October 31, 2017.
"The Chinese Exclusion Act with Erika Lee." Seattle Central Library podcast. October 9, 2017.
"Are we a nation of immigrants? Seattle Chinatown/ID tour guide offers provocative answer." Jerry Large, Seattle Times. May 14, 2017.
"The dark history behind this old Chinatown building." Ruby de Luna, KUOW. May 5, 2017.
"Remembering A Shameful Past: 135 Years Ago, Congress Passed the Chinese Exclusion Act." Paula Wissel, KNKX. May 5, 2017.
"Artist gives a chilling audio tour of our past at old INS Building." Sarah Stuteville, Seattle Times. December 5, 2013.
“Old Immigration Building Saw 73 Years of Continuous Service.” Department of Homeland Security Press Release, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. March 6, 2006.
“Hundreds Rally In Seattle: Many fear tracking will be used to 'target and profile'.” Chris Mcgann, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. January 13, 2003.
“Somalis Protest U.S. Raid, Store's Closure.” Sam Skolnik and Scott Sunde, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. November 9, 2001.
“Long-Illegal Resident Fights For Citizenship.” Cassandra Tate, The Seattle Times, page 48. January 3, 1983.
“Historic Assay Office Closes.” The Seattle Times, page 12. February 28, 1955.
“Behind the Scenes at the U.S. Immigration Station.” The Seattle Times, page 19. September 26, 1948.
“Making New Citizens Complex Job: Many aliens quizzed at immigration office here.” The Seattle Times, page 14. January 4, 1941.
“Deportee is Captured in Escape Try: Canadian foiled when he becomes wedged in bars after breaking pane at U.S. Immigration Station.” The Seattle Times, page 1. September 6, 1938.
“Japanese American Exhibit & Access Project: Camp Harmony.” University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.
Related Materials - Historic Immigration Sites
"A Federal Immigration Building with a Dark Past: In post-war San Francisco, discrimination against Chinese immigrants resulted in tragedy." Daniela Blei, Smithsonian.com. May 12, 2017. [focus on San Francisco's similar immigration and detention building]
"Remembering 1882 in 2017 - A Call to Action." Connie Young Yu, Chinese Historical Society of America. April 19, 2017.
“East Boston Immigration Station Study Report. As amended July 13, 2010.” Boston Landmarks Commission.
“Immigrant Voices: Angel Island Immigration Station.” Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.
“Ellis Island.” History.com.
“Immigration Station: Reflecting Hawaiian territorial style.” Janis L. Magin, Pacific Business News. March 15, 2009.
Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America. Erika Lee and Judy Yung, Oxford University Press, 2010.
Ellis Island Interviews: Immigrants Tell Their Stories In Their Own Words. Peter Morton Coan, Fall River Press, 2004.
Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940, 2nd edition. Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, Judy Yung, eds., University of Washington Press, 2014.
Island of Hope, Island of Tears: The Story of Those Who Entered the New World through Ellis Island - In Their Own Words. David M. Brownstone, Irene M. Franck, and Douglass Brownstone, Metro Books, 2003.
Passages to America: Oral Histories of Child Immigrants from Ellis Island and Angel Island. Emily E. Werner, Potomac Books, Inc, 2009.
Toward a Better Life: America’s New Immigrants in Their Own Words, From Ellis Island to the Present. Peter Morton Coan, Prometheus Books, 2011.
Related Materials - Immigrants & Refugees in the Pacific Northwest
American Workers, Colonial Power: Philippine Seattle and the Transpacific West, 1919-1941. Dorothy B. Fujiya-Rony, University of California Press, 2003.
Because I Don’t Have Wings: Stories of Mexican Immigrant Life. Philip Garrison, University of Arizona Press, 2006.
Han in the Upper Left: Korean Americans in the Pacific Northwest. Korean American Historical Society, Chin Music Press, Inc., 2015.
In Pursuit of Gold: Chinese American Miners and Merchants in the American West. Sue Fawn Chung, University of Illinois Press, 2014.
Jews of the Pacific Coast. Ellen Eisenberg, Ava Kahn, and William Toll, University of Washington Press, 2010.
Little Ethiopia of the Pacific Northwest. Joseph W. Scott and Solomon A. Getahun, Transaction Publishers, 2013.
Mexican Labor and World War II: Braceros in the Pacific Northwest, 1942-1947. Erasmo Gamboa and Kevin Leonard, University of Washington Press, 2000.
New Land, New Lives: Scandinavian Immigrants to the Pacific Northwest. Janet E. Rasmussen, University of Washington Press, 1998.
Nikkei in the Pacific Northwest: Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians in the Twentieth Century. Louis Fiset and Gail M. Nomura, University of Washington Press, 2005.
Pineros: Latino Labour and the Changing Face of Forestry in the Pacific Northwest. Brinda Sarathy, University of Washington Press, 2012.
Race, Radicalism, Religion, and Restriction : Immigration in the Pacific Northwest, 1890-1924. Kristofer Allerfeldt and Jeremy Black, Praeger, 2003.
"Refugee Timeline of Important Events." Dori Cahn, A Refugee's Journey of Survival and Hope exhibition, Wing Luke Museum. May 14-December 12, 2010.
Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest. Amy Bhatt, Nalini Iyer, and Deepa Banerjee, University of Washington Press, 2014.
Seeking Salaam: Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Somalis in the Pacific Northwest. Sandra M. Chait, University of Washington Press, 2013.
Sweet Cakes, Long Journey: The Chinatowns of Portland, Oregon. Marie Rose Wong, University of Washington Press, 2004.
Related Materials - Challenges for Immigrants & Refugees
"Commentary: For-profit immigration detention centers are an echo of a sad past." Shirley Ann Higuchi, The Salt Lake Tribune. March 24, 2018.
“Detained, Deceived, and Deported: Experiences of Recently Deported Central American Families.” Guillermo Cantor and Tory Johnson, American Immigration Council. May 18, 2016.“How Fears of Deportation Harm Kids’ Education.” Melinda D. Anderson, The Atlantic. January 26, 2016.
“These Korean Adoptees Grew Up Like Typical American Kids. Then They Learned They Weren’t Citizens.” Alyssa Jeong Perry, The Nation. August 2, 2016.
“When Immigrants Push Up Housing Prices.” Tanvi Misra, City Lab. September 29, 2016.
“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Behind Bars: Exposing the school to prison to deportation pipeline.” Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC), Washington D.C. 2015.
“Southeast Asian Americans At A Glance: Statistics on Southeast Asians adapted from the American Community Survey.” Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC), Washington D.C. 2011.
“Detained.” Eroyn Franklin, 2010. (graphic novel).
“Forced Apart: Families Separated and Immigrants Harmed by United States Deportation Policy.” Human Rights Watch, Volume 9, Number 3. July 2007.
“Sentenced Home.” David Grabias and Nicole Newnham, 2006. (documentary film).
“Central Americans and Asylum Policy In The Reagan Era.” Susan Gzesh, Migration Policy Institute. April 1, 2006.
From Refugee To Deportee: How U.S. immigration law failed the Cambodian community. Dori Cahn and Jay Stansell, in Race, Culture, Psychology, and Law, Kim Barrett and Bill George, eds. Sage Publications, 2005.
“In a Homeland Far From Home.” Deborah Sontag, New York Times. November 16, 2003.
“Memorandum Between the Government of the United States and the Royal Government of Cambodia for the Establishment and Operation of a United States-Cambodia Joint Commission on Repatriation.” Phnom Penh, Cambodia. March 22, 2002.
“Indefinite Detention Of Aliens Banned.” Lise Olsen and Charles Pope, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. June 28, 2001.
Zadvydas V. Davis, et al. 2001. Opinion 533 U.S. 678 (2001) Supreme Court Of The United States Nos. 99—7791 and 00—38. Argued February 21, 2001. Decided June 28, 2001.
When Broken Glass Floats: Growing up under the Khmer Rouge. Chanrithy Him, W.W. Norton, 2000.
“Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity – A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General 1999.” Office of the Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, SAMHSA. 1999.
“Growing Up American: The Challenge Confronting Immigrant Children and Children of Immigrants.” Min Zhou, Annual Review of Sociology 23:63. 1997.
“Psychiatric Treatment of Southeast Asian Refugees.” James K. Boehnlein and J. David Kinzie, National Center for PTSD Clinical Quarterly 6(1). Winter 1996.
A Cambodian Odyssey. Haing Ngor, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987.
"Educational Resources for Immigrants, Refugees, Asylees and other New Americans." U.S. Department of Education.
"In Their Own Words: Stories from KIND." Kids In Need of Defense.
"History of Ellis Island." New York Water Tour
Sponsors and Community Partners
Produced by the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience
With support from INS Holdings, LLC
Joan Stuart Ross
Exhibition Text and Oral Histories
Community Advisory Committee Members
Oral History Interviewees
Obdulia (Dolly) Castillo
Mohamed Sheikh Hassan
Seyed Mohamed Maulana
Joseph Pham Xuân Vinh
Phung Quoc Cuong
Ben and Jane Lee