An Essay About Ellis Island

1916 Words8 Pages
“They asked us questions, ‘How much is two and one? How much is two and two?’But the next young girl, also from our city, went and they asked her, ‘How do you wash stairs, from the top or from the bottom?’ She says, ‘I don’t come to America to wash stairs.’” This is a quote from Pauline Notkoff, a Polish Jewish immigrant who came to America in 1917 and was interviewed in 1985. Ellis Island had a highly efficient institution to present the United States with a healthy workforce. The goal was always to admit people not turn away. The nation’s health service was aware that people had put their savings and health at risk to sail across the ocean and leaving some family members behind to enter the United States. They wanted to accept and not reject if at all possible. Ellis Island opened on January 1st, 1892, and inspected about 3,000 to 5,000 immigrants a day. The immigrants were required to undergo physical, mental, and legal exams to determine if they were allowed to enter the United States.4 out of every ten Americans can trace at least one ancestor to Ellis Island. Ellis Island was once a large sandy expanse of land that was originally referred to as Gull Island by the indians who resided on the nearby shores. It was renamed Oyster Island in 1630 when the Dutch controlled New York. When the british gained control they restored the name Gull Island. During the mid 1760’s the island was used as a spot to hang pirates. In 1785 Samuel Ellis, a New Yorker, bought the property thus giving it the name Ellis Island. Ellis turned it into a picnic spot. He passed it on to his descendants after he passed. The U.S. Government purchased the property in 1808 and built a fort on the property called Fort Gibson. The U.S. Navy used Ellis I... ... middle of paper ... ...llars with you?” “Have you ever been in prison?” “Are you married?” “Do you have more than one husband or wife?” “Are you a foe of the government?“ An immigrant could be detained for further inquiry if his or her answers differed from the answers listed on the manifest. Ellis Island was considered the island of hope for most people, but for others it was the island of tears. If an immigrant did not pass their exams, they would be detained. Legal detainees resided in a dormitory room located on the third floor. They could wait days or even a month to hear their case reviewed in the hearing room. Medical detainees were treated at the island’s hospital or keep in quarantine for weeks or even months. Eventually, a Board of Special Inquiry would review an individual's medical report and decide whether to allow him into the United States or to send him back.
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