Guide Ellis Island and Beyond

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The other son God knew where, traveling toward them perhaps even now, or maybe lost or dead years before. You ask me my friend, how old am I? I tell you I do not know. Secretly I believe he is purposely exaggerating his accent, because I have heard his English, I know his capacity for beautiful phrasing and articulate rhetoric on many subjects, the voice of a deep alto tenor, words pronounced oddly at times but always perfectly chosen.

I am fascinated by and attracted to his voice.


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Years later, when I begin to write his story, to read the documents of his trial in Philadelphia in , at which he will be accused and convicted of sedition, and even later his brilliant, sardonic, yet unfailingly principled testimony before HUAC in , when I begin to imagine his first sighting of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, it is his facility and devotion to language that will fill my mind and my page.

The famous imposing green statue stands where he has always seen her stand, in postcards, in pictures. He cannot read the words, not in English, not yet, though he already has a careful plan to study as soon as he arrives in Philadelphia. Hoping his brother-in-law will meet them on the mainland, he almost prays to the old god in whom he has long since stopped believing. His father has put on his thick glasses, trying to see as much as possible. He and his sister are fine. He turns his thoughts from fear to hope.

His sister Raisela has told him in a letter that within walking distance of her home there is a public library, open to all, even to Jews.

Part I: The Story of Ellis Island As a Museum - Tenement Museum

There he will be allowed to borrow books to learn English, maybe even an evening course if he can find one for free. He had never finished primary school, but his mind was good. This disease was the reason for more than half of the medical detentions, and its discovery meant certain deportation. This inspection was over in a few seconds, as the doctor tilted the immigrant's head back and swiftly snapped back the upper eyelids over a small instrument that was actually a hook for buttoning shoes.

If immigrants had any of the diseases proscribed by the immigration laws, or were too ill or feeble-minded to earn a living, they would be deported. Roughly two percent of the immigrants seeking refuge in America who made it as far as Ellis Island failed to be admitted. Disability or disease, particularly trachoma, were the main reasons for not allowing entry. Sick children aged 12 and over were sent back to Europe alone and released in the port they had originally departed from.


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Younger children had to be accompanied by a parent. We can only imagine the tearful scenes as the mother and father decided who was to accompany the sick child back to the embarkation port, perhaps never to see the rest of the family again. Even worse, sending sick teenagers alone back across the ocean often meant certain death for the youngsters from disease, starvation or neglect.

Educating About Immigration

This questioning process was designed to verify the 29 items of information contained in the manifest for each passenger. They were then free to leave, settle in this strange new land, and raise families. Even better, you do not need to visit Ellis Island to view them. In later years all the records were microfilmed, and thousands of copies are available.

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You can probably find microfilm copies near you. If not, you can rent the reels of microfilm at very modest costs. Images of the original records are also available online. With a bit of patience, you may find your ancestor in those records. Oregon Cultural Trust. Who We Are. What We Do. There was fighting in Europe, transportation was interrupted, and the American consulates weren't open. Fewer than 10 percent of the immigration quotas from Europe were used from to In many ways, the country was still fearful of the influence of foreign-born people.

Resident aliens are people who are living permanently in the United States but are not citizens. Oftentimes, there was no reason for these people to be detained, other than fear and racism. Beginning in , the government even detained American citizens who were ethnically Japanese. The government did this despite the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which says "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without the due process of law.

Also because of the war, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in China had quickly become an important ally of the United States against Japan; therefore, the U. Chinese immigrants could once again legally enter the country, although they did so only in small numbers for the next couple of decades.


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    Immigrants at Ellis Island - History

    Truman urged the government to help the "appalling dislocation" of hundreds of thousands of Europeans. In , Truman said, "everything possible should be done at once to facilitate the entrance of some of these displaced persons and refugees into the United States. I believe that the admission of these persons will add to the strength and energy of the Nation. It allowed for refugees to come to the United States who otherwise wouldn't have been allowed to enter under existing immigration law.

    The Act marked the beginning of a period of refugee immigration. It also allowed non-Europeans to come to the United States as refugees. The Refugee Relief Act also reflected the U. The Soviet Union was also controlling the governments of other countries. The Act allowed people fleeing from those countries to enter the United States. When he signed the Act, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "This action demonstrates again America's traditional concern for the homeless, the persecuted, and the less fortunate of other lands. It is a dramatic contrast to the tragic events taking place in East Germany and in other captive nations.

    In , there was a revolution in Hungary in which the people protested the Soviet-controlled government. Many people fled the country during the short revolution.

    They were known as "fifty-sixers". About 36, Hungarians came to the United States during this time. Some of their countrymen also moved to Canada. In , Cuba experienced a revolution, and Fidel Castro took over the government. His dictatorship aligned itself with the Soviet Union. More than , Cubans left their country in the years after the revolution; many of them settled in Florida. In , President Lyndon B. This act repealed the quota system based on national origins that had been in place since This was the most significant change to immigration policy in decades.

    Instead of quotas, immigration policy was now based on a preference for reuniting families and bringing highly skilled workers to the United States. This was a change because in the past, many immigrants were less skilled and less educated than the average American worker. In the modern period, many immigrants would be doctors, scientists, and high-tech workers. Because Europe was recovering from the war, fewer Europeans were deciding to move to America. But people from the rest of world were eager to move here. Asians and Latin Americans, in particular, were significant groups in the new wave of immigration.

    Within five years after the act was signed, for example, Asian immigration had doubled. During the s and s, America was involved in a war in Vietnam. Vietnam is located in Southeast Asia, on the Indochina peninsula. From the s into the s there was a great deal of conflict in the area.

    After the war, Vietnamese refugees started coming to the United States. During the s, about , Vietnamese came, and hundreds of thousands more continued to arrive during the next two decades. In , the government passed the Refugee Act, a law that was meant specifically to help refugees who needed to come to the country.

    Refugees come because they fear persecution due to their race, religion, political beliefs, or other reasons. The United States and other countries signed treaties, or legal agreements, that said they should help refugees. The Refugee Act protected this type of immigrant's right to come to America. During the s, waves of immigrants arrived from Central America, the Caribbean, and South America.

    Hundreds of thousands of people came just from Cuba, fleeing the oppressive dictatorship of Fidel Castro. This was a significant new wave of immigrants: During the s, 8 million immigrants came from Latin America, a number nearly equal to the total figure of European immigrants who came to the United States from to , when European immigration was at a high point.

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    The new immigrants changed the makeup of America: By , Latinos in the United States were about Since , immigration has been increasing. It is at its highest point in America's history. In both the s and s, around 10 million new immigrants came to the United States. The previous record was from to , when around 8 million immigrants arrived. In , the foreign-born population of the United States was Also in that year, California became the first state in which no one ethnic group made up a majority. By comparison, as recently as the s, two-thirds of all immigrants to the United States came from Europe or Canada.

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