03 June 2009

Washington DC: Alien files to become permanent

An important signing ceremony will take place today (Wednesday, June 3) at the National Archives in Washington DC. The event will preserve some 32 million immigration files originally slated for disposal.

Designated as permanent will be the files created for millions of aliens residing in the US in 1944 and for those who have arrived since then.

Presiding will be US acting archivist Adrienne Thomas, US Citizenship and Immigration Services associate director Gregory Smith, and Save Our National Archives communications director Jennie Lew.

According to the press release:
These Alien Case Files (commonly referred to as A-Files) document the famous, the infamous, the anonymous and the well-known, and are an historical and genealogical goldmine.

The new agreement authorizes the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services/Department of Homeland Security to send A-files to the National Archives when 100 years have passed since the birth date of the subject of a file.

The National Archives expects to receive the first transfer of A-files later this year, and will store the files at National Archives facilities in San Francisco and Kansas City. Researchers will be able to access the files at these two sites, or request copies of files. An index will be available to support research use.

The A-files are a key to unlocking the fascinating stories of millions of people who traveled to the United States in search of opportunity.

They include information such as photographs, personal correspondence, birth certificates, health records, interview transcripts, visas, applications and other information on all non-naturalized alien residents, both legal and illegal.
At the event, the National Archives will have samples of the alien registration form used to create the A-files. The form asked for valuable details - for genealogists, family historians and other researchers - including the alien’s current name, the name s/he used when entering the country, marital status, occupation, employer's name and address of employer, height, weight, date and place of birth.

These permanent records will be of great significance to many immigrant communities that arrived in 1944 and afterward. The press release noted that the files are of particular interest to the Asian American community because many A-files supplement information in Chinese Exclusion Act-era case files (1882-1943), already housed at the National Archives.

It is always good news when such record groups are saved from destruction and made permanent for future generations of researchers.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:11 PM

    The USA Today is good, but doesn't mention SONA's (Save Our National Archive) ten years of advocacy to urge USCIS and NARA to transfer the A-Files be transfered to NARA for preservation for research. We are a coalition of over 30+ genealogical, historical, academic societies. The late Congressman Tom Lantos, CA. was a major force in convincing USCIS and NARA on this agreement. SONA outlasted two changes of Presidential administrations appointments at USCIS and NARA. SONA formed in 1998 when NARA published their Strategic Plans to close the regional archives and transfer their holdings to Lee's Summit, MO.
    J. Low
    SONA, Communications C0-chair
    SF., CA