Remember, always remember, that all of us, and you and I in particular, are descended from immigrants.
(Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Ellis Island is a small artificial island in Manhattan Bay, used for the “disposal” of immigrants, from 1892 to 1954
It is illuminating. It is clear, during the visit, how the American Federal Government managed, with a clear strategy, with psychological methods and instruments, with a perfect organization and with flexible policies based on the development cycles of its economy, to integrate millions of immigrants from all over the world.
I finally understood the reason why every immigrant I meet feels or has always felt American. “I am American” is the phrase that every American / immigrant of any generation tells you when he tells you his story.
In all the rooms of the immigration museum, present in the main building, incredible photographs are exhibited and audio guides are available that tell moving testimonies.
It is a museum not to be missed if you visit New York.
Since the early 1800s, most immigration came from England, Ireland, Germany and Finland.
From the late 1800s and in the period from 1907 to 1924 in particular, immigration was predominantly (75 per cent of the total) Italian and Jewish from Eastern Europe. In addition, of course, to Japanese Japanese, Russian Russians and many other Europeans. Everyone was running away from poverty, persecutions, dictatorships.
Women Who went to N.Y. From Milano station in 1889
Italian family in 1907
Spanish family in 1915
During the great immigration 1880-1924, millions left Europe in search of better living conditions. America was the country of wealth, of the freedom of progress. It represented paradise.
Steam ship with description of the first, second and third class
Sloven kid in 1913
Departure on the ship 1908
But it was not so easy to be able to enter and stay in America.
Immigrants landed on Ellis Island, (called island of hope and island of tears) where they underwent medical and psychological visits and could also extend this forced stay up to a year.
In this more or less long period on the island there was a great change in people, they became “adults”, less attached to their traditions and more flexible to belong to the new ones. American culture and history courses were held. People got used to living in a different community from the one they left behind.
In short, it was clear from the beginning who was in charge and how the immigrant, if he had been chosen, would have to behave in the future. Despite the full freedom of religion and respect for every different culture.
But not everything was roses and flowers. Upon arrival, immigrants were sometimes imprisoned, put behind bars. Even children.
During the crossing, children frequently contracted diseases and were contagious. They were then separated from their families for two or three weeks and treated.
Then there was the selection.
Each arriving immigrant brought with him a document with information about the ship that had brought him to New York. The doctors briefly examined each migrant and marked on the back each one.
vaccination of Japanese migrants 1904
Children vaccination in 1907
Psychological medical examination 1895
Quarantined children with contagious diseases 1895
The rejected: It took very little to be rejected. As the testimonials tell, even a black nail. Those who were unable to deal with public works, who had mental problems and were unable to work were excluded. Those with contagious diseases were also rejected. These would never set foot in America again.
Many people were repatriated without money and often even without a jacket …
The scenes on the island were truly heartbreaking: for the most part people came hungry, dirty and penniless, did not know a word of English and felt extremely in awe of the new country.
The deportees: they were those who tried to enter illegally, who had committed a crime and were imprisoned and sent back to their ports of origin
Of those who arrived legally and with documents, only 2 percent were sent back at the beginning of the great immigration. But the fact that he could be sent back was a terrible prospect for anyone.
The next step for those who passed the physical and psychological selection was vaccination.
After the great immigration, the United States began to close its doors. The dissatisfaction of Americans against immigrants, criminals and mafia in particular, was growing. The Federal Government passed a series of restrictive laws including the extra quotas in force from 1921 to 1965. The Immigration Act of 1924 established the quota of maximum 2 percent of immigrants for each country. Immigrants arriving beyond this quota were sent back to their home
Racism against the Japanese 1921
Immigrants worked 10 to 12 hours a day for a weekly wage of $ 7 a week. Everyone worked, women and children. Many immigrants set up on their own, traded, opened barber shops, restaurants, laundries. Banks provided loans to carry out their business. So much so that if from 1910 onwards immigrants lived in poverty and in the worst neighborhoods of the big cities, a few years later, many became wealthy. Churches and other places were built to celebrate the legitimacy of different cultures.
But it is in 1910 that the great immigrant education program begins. Teachers, social workers, bureaucrats were employed in large numbers to teach English to new arrivals. And above all to ensure that they supported America during the First World War.
About 10 million Americans today can trace their roots through the Ellis Island records.