California Crossings, a Historical Exhibit on California Immigration at UC Berkeley

California continues to temp newcomers. Its yearly percentage of new immigrants churns out a whopping total of over 200,000 per year according to California Watch. But does history repeat itself through immigration?

In hindsight, an interesting art exhibit on the history of California immigration is taking place at the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library archives until March 30, 2012. Walking through the history of newcomers to the Wild West depicts the trials and tribulations of new immigrants: Russian, Chinese, Japanese, French, Mexican, American-Indian, and African-American.

Everyone comes to the Golden State to seek fortune and happiness.

Jazz-era African Americans work in Oakland factories. Chinese work in laundry shops. American Indians establish root in camps in Richmond. Russian trappers settle in San Francisco. All is documented here which a rich detailed chronology of photos, letters, manuscripts.

But a new life does not happen without a price to pay. Racism and isolationism can occur. Japanese Americans were unjustly evacuated to internment camps during the Pearl Harbor attack. One thinks: did Afghan or Iraqi Americans in California suffer too from isolation during the War against Iraq?

The exhibit is small but holds a lot of emotions and treasures to be seen. The Dorothea Lange photos themselves are worth the visit. Plus, it is free and is located in the heart of one of the most dynamic US university campuses: UC Berkeley.

Funny enough some of the most famous California residents are immigrants: Russian-born Sergey Brin (Google), British native and Apple lead designer, Jony Ive. It shows how immigration is essential to the health of a state to bring in new blood, new fresh ideas, and a generated work labor.

Does our Golden State still continue to entice the very best? Sure. Half of the engineers working in the Silicon Valley were born overseas while according to Bay Citizen, without migrant labor, majority from Mexico, the wine producers in Napa would be hard pressed to fill a carafe, much less the valley’s 9 million annual cases.

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