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?
What do you think about the old Immigration Building?
Community members who experienced the INS Building first-hand share their reflections on the Building’s past, present and future. To access their full oral histories, contact email@example.com, or 206.623.5124 ext 117.
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
"Are we a nation of immigrants? Seattle Chinatown/ID tour guide offers provocative answer." Jerry Large, Seattle Times. May 14, 2017.
"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]
"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.
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