January 1, 2020
Annie's eyes grew wide as her transfer boat edged closer to the dock. Her two younger brothers clung to her side as anticipation filled the air. She waited patiently as the sailors prepared the gangplank for the passengers to disembark. Annie moved forward as a man stepped in front of her. "Ladies first," a voice ordered, holding the man back and waving her off first and into history.
The patriotically decorated ships in the harbor appeared like leftovers from the previous evening's New Year's celebration. Yet the cheering crowds and ringing bells were celebrating another milestone. The ship, the Nevada, just missed arriving in port before the immigration center closed the evening before. However, it would turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Annie.
Making sure her brothers were behind her, Annie rushed down the ramp to the dock. It had been almost two weeks since they left their home in Ireland to reunite with their parents and older siblings, who came to America four years earlier. However, they still needed to pass inspections.
Once she reached the dock, Annie immediately headed towards the brand new building. Upon entering the large wooden doors, she was escorted to the registration desk. “What is your name, my girl?” "Annie Moore," she answered. As she watched the man write her name in the registry, it was also being written in history. With the brisk stokes of the pen, the 17-year-old Irish girl became the first immigrant ever recorded in the books at Ellis Island. To mark the occasion, Colonel John B. Webster, the first Commissioner of Immigration at the port of New York, handed her a $10 gold coin. A Catholic chaplain there for the celebration blessed her before giving her a silver coin. As Annie moved on she felt someone slip something into her hand, which turned out to be a $5 gold coin. Following their physicals and legal background checks, Annie and her brothers reunited with the rest of their family and departed to their home in Manhattan.
From the formation of the country, states were given the responsibility to supervise foreign immigration. During the 1880’s, several factors caused immigration to explode. Europeans and other countries continued to experience the political tyranny, forced class societies, and religious discrimination the Americans had already broken free from. As the Second Industrial Revolution gained steam in America, people decided to leave their oppressive governments and head towards liberty, which offered endless opportunities. (see ) Concerns of proper regulations, as well as diseases being brought into the country, caused the Federal Government to take over the immigration process for the nation in 1891.
Samuel Ellis obtained a little 3.3 acre island in the New York Harbor just off the coast of New Jersey in the 1770’s. The piece of land barely rose above high tide, but was enough to house a tavern that catered to fishermen. Realizing how imperative it was to defend the harbor after the Revolutionary War, the Federal government purchased the island in 1808 from New York. (see ) Using it in several military capacities, including housing a fort, dirt brought to the little island eventually grew it to 27.5 acres.
Dedicated in 1886, the Statue of Liberty welcomed immigrants to America. (see) Therefore, the little island just north of Lady Liberty seemed the logical place to house the new immigration facility. Opening on January 1, 1892, Ellis Island welcomed 700 immigrants their first day and almost 450,000 by the end of the year.
First- and second-class passengers, who consisted of the wealthy, famous individuals, entrepreneurs, and so forth, were inspected on the ship. It was assumed those already able to afford these tickets were not likely to become dependent on public assistance. After their inspections on the vessel, they were allowed to bypass the processes on Ellis Island unless a physical or legal issue was discovered. Third-class, or steerage, passengers traveled in the lower portion of the ship in less than desirable and often unsanitary conditions. Therefore, passengers with these cheaper tickets participated in a more extensive process that lasted from 3 to 7 hours.
After registering, immigrant families were separated by gender and age. As they ascended the stairs to the Great Hall, doctors discretely observed to see if there were any physical issues, such as coughing, wheezing, limping, or shuffling, among the passengers as they climbed. On the upper level, doctors performed one-on-one examinations. They quickly became so proficient in spotting issues by just looking at people, they could perform “6-second physicals”.
A massive fire on June 15, 1897, completely destroyed the wooden structures on Ellis Island, turning the immigration facility to ashes. While there were fortunately no fatalities, Federal and State immigration records going back to 1855 were totally consumed in the blaze, including Annie Moore’s. The immigration process continued at a nearby port while a three-story building was constructed. Ellis Island reopened on January 1, 1902, with a massive new fireproof structure.
The following year, doctors began categorizing those with physical concerns into one of two groups. People with contagious diseases or mental conditions were labeled “Class A,” while those with diseases or afflictions that could cause the immigrant to become dependent on the government were labeled “Class B”. Quarantined in cages, immigrants could request to be treated. However, most rejected the option as they were required to reimburse the hospital for their expenses. Those who received treatment for their “Class A” conditions were deported if not able to pay.
It was possible children could be rejected due to illness and deported without their parents, yet parents had the option to go back with their children. The United States made it clear that rejected immigrants would be returned to their original port of departure at the expense of the shipping lines that brought them. By placing responsibility on the transporting companies the shipping lines began performing their own physical inspections. This simple process greatly reduced the number of those denied entry.
Immigrants were also required to answer a list of 32 questions. Questions involved confirming their name, place of origin, occupation, financial status and where they planned to settle in the United States. Some were held on the island while their status was confirmed. Those with a criminal record, the potential for political resistance, anarchists, or contract laborers were deported.
Wanting to ensure that America was accepting productive people and not those expecting to be taken care of, Congress passed laws in 1909 requiring each person to have at least $20 before they were granted entry. This was not collected as a fee, but seen as a good faith effort. It demonstrated the new migrant was able to be productive. It verified they had funds to live on while getting settled. It was a simple confirmation they wanted to contribute to society, not live off of it.
At the time, Immigration Services did not feel comfortable releasing unaccompanied women and children. To guarantee their safety, they were detained until contact was made by a relative already in America, assuring their protection. Despite obtaining the nickname “Island of Tears,” only 2% of immigrants were rejected from entering the country.
Following America’s performance during World War I, nations began viewing her as a major power in the world. (see ) Therefore, US embassies were constructed in countries all over the world. Foreigners wishing to emigrate to America initiated the process at the embassy, receiving their physical and legal checks before leaving their country. In 1921, Congress passed the Immigration Quota Law, followed by the Immigration Act of 1924. These Acts sought to limit immigration from eastern and southern European countries. Congress feared people from these areas were having trouble assimilating into American culture, therefore threatening America’s survival.
As a result of these events, the need for Ellis Island greatly diminished with its peak hitting in the early 1920’s. Instead of functioning as a processing center, the island evolved into a place where aliens were detained because of paperwork issues. Those caught entering the country illegally or violating their admittance terms were sent to the island for deportation. War refugees were also held on the island, especially during World War II. Over time, the massive buildings were used less and less, allowing them to fall into disrepair.
By 1954, it was decided Ellis Island had fulfilled its usefulness. On November 12, Arne Peterssen, a Norwegian merchant seaman, passed through Ellis Island as its last immigrant. Ellis Island officially closed after processing over 15 million immigrants since first opening.
A decade later, on May 11, 1965, Ellis Island became part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. President Lyndon B. Johnson approved a redevelopment project the following August to make it a museum and park. From 1976 to 1984, the public was granted limited access to the island. However, in 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca, Chairman of the Chrysler Corporation, to preside over a private sector fundraising effort to restore the Statue of Liberty, of which Ellis Island was a part. Iacocca raised all the funds from corporations and other organizations, as well as private citizens, as part of the non-profit Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. The largest restoration project in American History, the $87 million undertaking was completed on July 5, 1986, just in time to celebrate the statue’s centennial.
Liberty, the desire to be free, following Nature’s laws, or God, instead of a group of elitist forcing their morality on people, exists among all people. This hunger is why German painter Emmanuel Leutze painted “Washington Crossing the Delaware” and France’s Edouard de Laboulaye gave us the Statue of Liberty. They were not aiming to inspire Americans. They wanted to motivate those in Europe still bound by the chains of political tyranny and religious oppression to seek freedom. (see and )
The artists hoped to encourage their own fellow citizens to yearn and fight for the liberties and freedoms America won for themselves. Leutze’s painting emphasized what people can do if they all join together with a common cause. The Statue of Liberty doesn’t face America, she faces Europe. But she’s not inviting those that want to come here and be taken care of. (see ) She’s calling for those like Johann Roebling, who wanted the freedom to build bridges the way he wanted and learned English before coming to America so he could be successful. (see ) Or Alexander Graham Bell, who immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, out of his desire to do work for the deaf. (see )
When Ellis Island opened just a few conditions could cause a rejection of an immigrant's application: their health or the possibility of them becoming involved in illegal activity or placed on the public dole. Today, Democrats, primarily the leading politicians and their presidential candidates, want America to open its doors to anyone. In fact, they are more committed to accept those coming illegally than approving productive individuals desiring opportunity. The same activists who excoriate Christopher Columbus for bringing disease to the Americas now eagerly welcome those reintroducing illnesses to the nation that had been virtually eradicated. (see ) America use to require those we helped to pay for their treatment. Democrat candidates fall over injured veterans to run on the platform of promising immigrants, especially those coming here illegally, free health care, free food stamps, free housing, and welfare, all while claiming to love America and the Constitution. This is not just un-American, it is anti-American, bordering on treason.
When Congress passed their quota Acts in the early 1920’s, they were concerned that many immigrants entering the country were poorer and uneducated, risking the possibility they would become wards of the state instead of productive citizens. Democrats today pride themselves on embracing minority immigrants. However what the politicians won't tell you is they need them, even allowing them to get driver's licenses and take their citizenship tests in their native language. In reality, this keeps them in the inferior class. Therefore, the politicians continue to hold them within their camp as these people need the freebies to survive. The immigrants stay poor, the politicians stay in power, and the blue collar American middle class disappears after paying for it all. Political activists masquerading as congresspeople and the media want to accuse the quota Acts of being racist, yet they were designed to prevent the very abuse and political slavery the migrants are receiving from those same activists.
After Annie Moore entered America, she married a German-American named Joseph Augustus Schayer. They had 10 children of which one half made it to adulthood. Living in Manhattan’s Lower East Side the rest of her life, Annie died at the age of 50 on December 6, 1924 from heart failure. As an Irish girl marrying a German, Annie is a perfect example of the American Dream and the definition of America’s melting pot. (see ) This is the America we inherited, Liberty. And I pray with all my might it is the America we pass on to you.
That’s my 2 cents.
COMING TO AMERICA