By Anna Lynn Sibal
It cannot be disregarded that Ellis Island, located just at the mouth of Hudson River, between the states of New Jersey and New York, played a huge part in the formation of the history and society of the United States of America. Most Americans can trace their ancestry to an immigrant. Fifty percent of the entire American population can rightfully claim that they are related to an immigrant who passed through the immigration processing center of Ellis Island.
Ellis Island has been christened “Island of Hope, Island of Tears” by the people who came to the shores of the United States through the island. A foreigner, turning his back to his home country for one reason or another in search of a new life in America, boarded a ship sailing to the United States and lands on Ellis Island. As he approached the shore, he is immediately greeted by the sight of Lady Liberty, the symbol of all that is free in the world. If he traveled first or second class, he automatically got in.
However, if this foreigner came to Ellis Island on third class and seeking work, he was subjected to a medical examination and asked 29 questions. If he passed the tests he was made to take, he was then free to leave the island and sail for New York City, to settle there or to move elsewhere deeper into the country, with his hope for a new life alive.
But if he failed to satisfy the inspectors through the examinations, he was sent back to his point of origin, his hopes dashed. If severe illness found him on his way to the United States, he would be made to stay in the Ellis Island Hospital, where he awaited recovery or death. Three thousand immigrants have died on Ellis Island for the duration of the period that the island was a processing center for immigrants.
Ellis Island served this purpose from January 1892 to November 1954. Today, the island is considered part of the Statue of Liberty Monument, under the management of the National Parks Service. On October 15, 1966, it was included in the National Register of Historic Places in the United States.
In honor of the struggle, the pain and the hope that immigrants have faced during their stay in Ellis Island, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum was established in the former processing building on the island. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in New York City. In the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, visitors can take guided tours through the history of the island and a recreation of the Board of Inquiry procedure in processing immigrants.
Visitors are also free to stroll within and outside the building, and even to go on a picnic on the grassy areas outdoors while enjoying the view of lower Manhattan. A must-see in the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is the 30-minute documentary film about the immigrant experience called Island of Hope, Island of Tears.
Ellis Island Immigration Museum is also home to the American Family Immigration History Center, an extensive archive and genealogy service that allows decendants of immigrants to trace their family tree. Many families also go to Ellis Island to honor an immigrant relative who has passed through the Board of Inquiry of Ellis Island.
Ellis Island, the Island of Hope, the Island of Tears, has played a significant role in the formation of what is the United States of America today. It is more than worthwhile to come and visit Ellis Island and pay tribute to the men and women who have braved the long journey over the seas in order to come to America and start a new life.
New York City Guide