Alexandra Dingle, 11th Grade
Supported by a wooden base, this is a replica of one of the world’s most famous statues: The Statue of Liberty. The entire model is made of dark brown, copper plated-zinc. Lady Liberty stands tall with a torch in her left hand and a tablet in her right, inscribed with July 4, 1776. The real Statue of Liberty was created by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, and this statue was one of the models he made before completing the final product that stands in New York Harbor today. The Statue of Liberty was given to the United States by France to commemorate their friendship on June 17th, 1885. However, the Americans created the base, which has the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus written on it. The Statue of Liberty was finally opened to the public on October 28th, 1886, eight years after its construction began, to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The Statue of Liberty, which stands on Liberty Island, is right next to Ellis Island, the main immigration inspection station in the United States from its opening in 1892 until its closing in 1954. Over twelve million immigrants went through Ellis Island on their immigration journey. The Statue of Liberty would become one of the first images of America many immigrants traveling on ships would see when they arrived. The statue provided a sense of joy and hope after their long journey. When they arrived, those who were not detained after the medical exams would proceed to an inspector to be officially admitted into the United States. On average, inspectors had two minutes to inspect a single immigrant. On Ellis Island’s busiest day, there were approximately 11,747 immigrants inspected. If one was admitted, they would finally enter and have the opportunity to become an American citizen.
However, not everyone was so lucky. Around two percent of immigrants were sent back to their place of origin, sometimes totaling 1,000 people per month. People were often denied access into the United States if they were convicted of a crime in their homeland or if there were suspicions about their labor contracts, among other issues. Additionally, the government prevented certain groups from immigrating, fearful of economic and social instability. The Immigration Act of 1924 reduced the amount of Southern and Eastern European immigrants that could enter the country, many of whom were seeking stability following the chaos of World War I. Fears of Communism also plagued the early twentieth century, leading to the Anarchist Exclusion Act of 1901, which denied access to known anarchists. If an immigrant was detained, they were subjected to days or months of waiting before they received a hearing. Ill immigrants were either kept on Ellis Island to be treated and then re-evaluated or automatically sent on a ship home, depending on the illness.
The difficulties endured by immigrants on Ellis Island are similar to those of immigrants entering the United States have today, however holding spaces are now called Immigration Detention Centers and there are 112 such sites across the country. Ellis Island itself was used to imprison suspected anarchists and Communists during the Red Scare and the Cold War. Now, people held in Immigration Detention Centers are predominantly those who are suspected to have entered the country without documentation or have violated visas. Additionally, many are held to determine if they will be deported after a court hearing, although others are deported immediately. Similar to Ellis Island, people in Immigration Detention Centers can wait months before their case is heard and only around 30% of detainees have access to a lawyer. These immigrants’ dreams of coming to the United States and becoming citizens, whether to start a new life or to escape violence at home, are the same as those who immigrated a hundred years ago and passed through Ellis Island.
Brumback, Kate. “Lawsuit: Immigration Detainees Have Inadequate Lawyer Access,” AP News, April 4th, 2018, Accessed May 23 2018. https://www.apnews.com/5da75bde9197448286abebb8bdb80732.
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“Ellis Island History – The Statue Of Liberty & Ellis Island”. Liberty Ellis Foundation, Accessed May 23 2018. https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/ellis-island-history.
History.com Staff. “Statue of Liberty.” History.com, 2009, Accessed May 23 2018 www.history.com/topics/statue-of-liberty.
Kim, Kyle. “Immigrants Held In Remote ICE Facilities Struggle To Find Legal Aid Before Being Deported”. September 28 2017. LA Times. Accessed May 23 2018. http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-na-access-to-counsel-deportation/.
Koman, Rita G. “Ellis Island: The Immigrants’ Experience.” OAH Magazine of History 13, no. 4 (1999): 31-37. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25163308.