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Ellis Island

From Academic Kids

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Immigration Museum on Ellis Island

Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor at the mouth of the Hudson River, was at one time the main immigration port for immigrants entering the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Contents

History

Ellis Island immigrants as depicted in a USPS stamp
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Ellis Island immigrants as depicted in a USPS stamp

The port opened on January 1, 1892 and was closed in November 1954 but not before processing more than 20 million immigrants. Of these 20 million, only about two percent were denied admission to the U.S. and sent back to their countries of origin for reasons such as chronic disease. Many who were allowed entry settled in New York and northern New Jersey for at least their first few years in America.

After 1924, Ellis Island was only used for detainees and refugees. Ordinary immigrants were processed through other facilities.

Today, Ellis Island houses a museum, reachable by ferry from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey and from the southern tip of Manhattan in New York City. The Statue of Liberty, sometimes thought to be on Ellis Island because of its symbolism as a welcome to immigrants, is actually on nearby Liberty Island.

Legacy

Ellis Island is also known as a place where people changed their names; however, this is largely legend. It is said that if the immigration officer could not spell the original name, they would come up with an approximation, or something shorter or simpler, such as "Ellen Pollock" for "Helena Polonowycz". This is said to have been especially common when the newcomer couldn't read and write English. However, immigrants' identities were backed by their travel documents and ship lists, and they were often assisted by immigration societies of fellow countrymen. Very few cases of name changes can be traced to immigration processing while "Americanization" of ethnic names was a common occurrence as immigrants blended into everyday existence among friends and coworkers in their new country.

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Main building detail.

Jurisdiction

Ellis Island is owned by the federal government and managed by the National Park Service, so the long-running jurisdictional dispute between the states of New Jersey and New York was more symbolic than practical. The island is on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. During the colonial period, however, New York had taken possession, and New Jersey had acquiesced in that action. In a compact between the two states, approved by U.S. Congress in 1834, New Jersey therefore agreed that New York would continue to have exclusive jurisdiction over the island.

Thereafter, however, the federal government expanded the island by landfill, so that it could accommodate the immigration station that opened in 1892. Landfilling continued until 1934. Nine-tenths of the current area is artificial island that did not exist at the time of the interstate compact.

New Jersey contended that the new extensions were part of New Jersey, since they were not part of the previous cession. New Jersey eventually filed suit to establish its jurisdiction, leading New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to famously remark that his father, an Italian who immigrated through Ellis Island, never intended to go to New Jersey.

The dispute eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in 1998 that New Jersey had jurisdiction over all portions of the island created after the original compact was approved. This caused several immediate problems: some buildings, for instance, fell into the territory of both states. New Jersey and New York soon agreed to share jurisdiction over the island.

Inspection Symbols

These inspection symbols were chalked on the clothing of sick or otherwise "defective" hopeful immigrants, and some only entered the country by surreptitiously wiping them off.

  • C - Conjunctivitis
  • CT - Trachoma
  • E - Eyes
  • F - Face
  • FT - Feet
  • G - Goiter
  • H - Heat
  • K - Hernia
  • L - Lameness
  • N - Neck
  • P - Physical and Lungs
  • PG - Pregnancy
  • SC - Scalp (fungus)
  • SI - Special Inquiry
  • X - Suspected Mental Defect
  • X (circled) - Definite Mental Defect

There are one or two signs not available here.

Media

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See also

External links

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