Golden Venture

300 Chinese immigrants sail into a 1993 tragedy that prompts a harsh new era in US immigration policy.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
70 mins
Closed captioning available
Remote video URL


In what was the largest apprehension of undocumented immigrants in US history, the grounding of the freighter Golden Venture off a New York City beach became a crucial turning point in the legal and political battle over US immigration policy.

Featured review

A compelling and timely portrait of human courage, resilience, and compassion, set against a backdrop of bigotry, fear, and political infighting, this is recommended.- F. Swietek
Video Librarian
Video Librarian


Passengers had paid at least $30,000 to be brought to the U.S. from China's Fujian Province, expecting to arrive indebted but unnoticed. But a seemingly golden opportunity, sparked by a Chinatown gang war, quickly evolved into a nightmare: The Golden Venture crash fed a media circus and became a symbol of a growing national concern over illegal immigration. With Bill Clinton facing a major erosion in political support, in part because of a surge in anti-immigrant sentiment, the government adopted a harsh new get tough policies -- including detention of asylum seekers.

Many passengers were deported over a two-year period, while others were detained for up to four years in York, PA, where an unlikely coalition of lawyers, human rights advocages and anti-abortaion activists fought to help them.

At a time when the immigration issue has led to furious debate and high stakes political maneuvering, the fate of the Golden Venture passengers is more relevant than ever.


Remarkable stories of human strength, governmental indecisiveness, and a supportive coalition of national groups rallying on behalf of the refugees...Classes studying the ongoing question of immigration would greatly benefit from the unique perspective provided in the film.- Dwain Thomas, Lake Park High School, Roselle, IL
School Library Journal
School Library Journal
Damn near perfect.- Christopher Campbell
A revelatory documentary, Golden Venture daringly questions how today's American immigration policies are shaped and exposes why the pursuit of freedom is not without risk and sacrifice, and at times the loss of liberty itself.- Charles Lai, Founder and Director, Museum of Chinese in the Americas
Mueum of Chinese in the Americas
Mueum of Chinese in the Americas

Director Commentary

A combination of fascination and outrage prompted me to make a film about the Chinese immigrants on the freighter Golden Venture. I was amazed when I heard the story of the 286 Chinese immigrants who spent months huddled in the hold of a leaky freighter, a nightmare voyage that began off Thailand and ended with the ship grounded on a sandbar off a New York City beach. And I was outraged when I heard that the immigrants were detained and shipped to a county jail in York, PA. The US government deported many, and held others for more than four years.

I oppose restrictive immigration policies and advocate a total reform of the immigration system. Yet Golden Venture is not a diatribe -- it shows the complex nuances around Chinese immigration and immigration policy in general. But I hope it serves as an inspiring and emotional case study in perseverance and faith -- not only in the Golden Venture passengers, but in the cross-partisan group of Americans who joined together to help them.

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  • Closed Captioning
  • Subtitles
  • Transcript
  • Resources for Educators

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