2011-12-19 06:39:31

The Event: After a freighter named the Golden Venture grounded off Queens, New York, 276 undocumented Chinese passengers were taken into custody by federal authorities

Date: June 6, 1993

Location: Rockaway Peninsula, Queens, New York

Significance: The Golden Venture incident raised public awareness of the fact that during the 1990’s thousands of Chinese immigrants were entering the United States without legal documentation. Federal authorizes prosecuted the Golden Venture crew and parties responsible for the smuggling attempt and detained the would-be immigrants.

When the Golden Venture grounded, some passengers dove off the ship into the sea. During the rescue procedure ten people drowned or died of hypothermia and six others escaped. Those surviving were sent to detention centers, where 90 percent of them applied for political asylum. Public opinion on how to treat these survivors ranged from humanitarian appeals for full exoneration to calls for their immediate deportation.

The fates of individual survivors varied. The juveniles were transferred to court custody; some were given political asylum in the United States or South America, but many were deported. In February, 1997, President Bill Clinton awarded humanitarian paroles to the fifty-three remaining detainees, but this gesture did not alter their legal status. After they were freed, they were left to pursue their own destinies in America. More than half of those who had been deported are believed to have later returned to the United States.

During the several years that the detainees were incarcerated in York County prison, some of them created more than ten thousand intricate paper sculptures that were later exhibited throughout the United States.

A police rescue boat attempts to remove the last passengers from the Golden Venture as men who have already been rescued watch in the foreground A police rescue boat attempts to remove the last passengers from the Golden Venture as men who have already been rescued watch in the foreground. (AP/Wide World Photos)

Cynthia J. W. Svoboda

Further Reading

  • Chin, Ko-Lin. Smuggled Chinese: Clandestine Immigration to the United States. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999. 
  • Kwong, Peter. ForbiddenWorkers: Illegal Chinese Immigrants and American Labor. New York: New Press, 1997. 

See also: Border Patrol, U.S.; Chinese immigrants; Citizenship; Deportation; Due process protections; Illegal immigration; Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S.; Immigration law;New York State; Smuggling of immigrants; Transportation of immigrants.