Ellis Island as a Ray of Hope but a Port of Tears and Chaos for Immigrants: Critical Essay

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Ellis Island, a ray of hope, but a port of tears and chaos in the early eighteenth century. It was a place where the U.S. health and security departments screened out the immigrants considered undesirable, the incurably ill, the impoverished, the disabled, criminals, and all the others barred by the immigration laws of the United States. For most immigrants, Ellis Island meant three to five hours of waiting for a brief medical and legal examination before admittance, while for others it meant a longer stay with additional testing or a legal hearing. For some individuals, it meant exclusion and a return trip to the homeland after hours in expectation to receive clear entry into the United States of America.

The journey of the second-class immigrants begins with packing in large groups and being shoved onto those ships until they reach sight of new hope and opportunity in the states. As they arrived, they were separated into categories of men and women, who may or may not have children, and all with tons of luggage shoved in one place at the foot of the ship, from where they might not get it again. At once there were thousands of immigrants each day that the port had to accommodate, and at the highest were 12,668 immigrants, breaking the highest records for the number of immigrants arriving.

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Endless delays and long waits, this part of the immigrant experience was even worse during busy spring-to-fall shipping sessions, becoming an additional hassle for everyone. Sometimes new arrivals had to wait to board the ships to be transferred to Ellis Island. They were often confined to overcrowded ferries for hours without food and water, and lacked adequate toilets, waiting for their turn to disembark the ship and get inspected.

Finally, upon arrival at Ellis Island, U.S. Public Health Service doctors sometimes only had six seconds to check and scan each person during the inspection line. The rapid, efficient process was meant only to detect those who should be held for a more thorough medical examination. Experienced doctors would recognize signs of varieties of diseases and disabilities and they would mark each person good to go and who stayed for more exams. People who were put on further examination did not know if they were going to be deported, so they threw their coats away, and some turned them around, so the mark wasn’t visible. All in chaos, trying to come clean and proceed entrance process.

After the medical inspection, each immigrant filed up to an inspector’s desk at the far end of the registry room for his or her legal examination, an experience that for many was tantamount to Doomsday. To determine an immigrant’s social economic and moral fitness, inspectors asked a rapid-fire series of questions, such as: ‘Are you married?’, ‘What is your occupation?’, ‘How much money do you have?’, ‘Have you ever been convicted of a crime?’. The interrogation was over in a matter of minutes, after which an immigrant was either permitted to enter the United States or detained for a legal hearing.

About 10 percent of the immigrants arriving at Ellis Island were held for a legal hearing. Those thought liable to public charges or suspected of being contract laborers, or worse, received yellow cards marked ‘S.I.’, which meant their case would be decided by the Board of Special Inquiry. Three boards were usually in session all day, and during the busy season fourth board was added. Each board held about 50 to 100 hearings daily in presence of an interpreter and a stenographer.

Each board based its decision on the testimony of the immigrant and of friends or relatives allowed to speak on the immigrant’s behalf. An immigrant who received an unfavorable decision from the board could directly appeal to Washington D.C. with the help of a lawyer often provided by an immigrant aid society. In almost 8 out of 10 cases, these boards ruled to admit immigrants into the United States. In total, 2% of the over 12 million immigrants processed at Ellis Island were denied admission and sent back.

After the prolonged and delayed process of immigration and allowance to enter the United States, food stands were an essential part of the remaining journey for the tired and baffled travelers where they could get snacks provided by U.S. food services. Once their travel plans were sorted, immigrants bound for destinations across the country took barges or ferries to railroad terminals in Jersey City or Hoboken. Immigrants going to New York City took the ferry from Ellis Island to the Battery, where they would usually find a great crowd waiting to greet new arrivals. The relatives, friends, baggage carters, and boarding house representatives were a blissful sight to see. And this is how immigration in the early era continued to take place.

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Ellis Island as a Ray of Hope but a Port of Tears and Chaos for Immigrants: Critical Essay. (2023, October 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/ellis-island-as-a-ray-of-hope-but-a-port-of-tears-and-chaos-for-immigrants-critical-essay/
“Ellis Island as a Ray of Hope but a Port of Tears and Chaos for Immigrants: Critical Essay.” Edubirdie, 11 Oct. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/ellis-island-as-a-ray-of-hope-but-a-port-of-tears-and-chaos-for-immigrants-critical-essay/
Ellis Island as a Ray of Hope but a Port of Tears and Chaos for Immigrants: Critical Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/ellis-island-as-a-ray-of-hope-but-a-port-of-tears-and-chaos-for-immigrants-critical-essay/> [Accessed 23 Jul. 2024].
Ellis Island as a Ray of Hope but a Port of Tears and Chaos for Immigrants: Critical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Oct 11 [cited 2024 Jul 23]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/ellis-island-as-a-ray-of-hope-but-a-port-of-tears-and-chaos-for-immigrants-critical-essay/
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