What happened to immigrants when they arrived at Ellis Island and before they were allowed to enter the US?This question pertains to Ellis Island in the late 19th century, early 20th.

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saintfester | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Immigrants who wanted to come to the U.S. through the city of New York passed through the gates of Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954. This was the busiest immigration station in the U.S. when it was open. Before people where allowed ashore in New York, they had to be processed at Ellis Island.

The process had a multitude of steps. When passengers were offloaded they were first numbed with paper tags. These number were used to cross-reference immigrants to make sure they had the right to land.

They were then sorted into long lines where they were eventually met by a team of doctors who inspected them for a number of different ailments. Children were talked to in order to see if they were deaf or dumb. If they were observed to have any sort of medical condition, they received a blue chalk mark that required them to take more tests. Those suspected of having feeble minds would be submitted to a series of puzzles to gage their mental aptitude. Anyone who failed these exams would be sent right back to their ship. Families had to decide whether or not to be separated or stick together at this point.

After sorting, immigrants were registered in the Great Hall. Inspectors verified 29 different pieces of information on each immigrant and would ask many questions. These questions would range from where they were born to how they planned to support themselves in the U.S. Any answers that were deemed unsatisfactory could result in someone being asked to go back to their point f origin.

From the Great Hall they descended down a set of stairs where they could purchase train tickets and reclaim their luggage.                


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