Ellis Island opened in 1892 and closed in 1954, with an estimated 12 million immigrants passing through this center during the 62 years it was in service. The peak year of immigration was 1907, with an astounding 1.25 million arrivals. Immigrants disembarking at Ellis Island were subject to health examinations that often determined whether they would be allowed into the country. If an immigrant was considered too ill, there was a hospital complex on the island for treatment. Ellis Island also temporarily housed immigrants because they had to have their identification papers before they could depart.
Ellis Island was not only utilized as an immigration processing center. During World War I, the rate of immigration fell and Ellis Island served as a detainment arena for enemy ships and suspected enemy aliens (the same purpose it served during World War II). Later on, returning injured or sick American soldiers received treatment there. After World War I ended, immigration briefly picked up again, but after 1924 Ellis Island was no longer used for processing immigrants. According to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the island was converted into the “center of the assembly, detention, and deportation of aliens who had entered the U.S. illegally or had violated the terms of admittance.” Immigration rates to the United States continued to drop, especially after the Internal Security Act of 1952, which did not allow members of Communist or Fascist groups to enter the United States, and the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952. Ellis Island was closed two years later. [Read more.]
When most people think of Ellis Island, they imagine the Ellis Island Immigration Museum (you should go if you have never been, it’s excellent!). But Save Ellis Island, a National Park Service partner, is also working to rehabilitate and maintain all of the 29 buildings on the island, including the hospital complex that has fallen into ruins. For more information about Save Ellis Island, read our blog post.
Intrigued? Click here for more blog posts about Ellis Island.
-posted by Devin