When you think of Ellis Island, you usually think of a historical landmark. But Ellis Island has a long and interesting history to it. Back in the 1800s, Samuel Ellis owned Ellis Island. He made the island into a picnic place for the Swedish. It was purchased in 1808 by the Federal Government to be used as a Government Arsenal Fort. The need for immigration was first realized in 1847 when a severe potato famine in Ireland led to thousands of starving people storming into New England and New York. Ellis Island was the first place that many of these people came to upon entry of the United States.
When these immigrants were finally granted the freedom to enter the country they brought with them many new ideas and traditions. There were many reasons motivating the immigrants to come to America. A few of them were mainly being free, and having better jobs. They wanted to be around a free atmosphere, where they didn’t have to be controlled and follow rules. Another reason was because they wanted to be reunited with their family. Some of their family had already ventured out to America before them, and told them about America’s benefits and they decided to follow along.
America’s land was cheap, and had an abundance of hiring jobs. Once immigrants heard about this they were ecstatic and immediately planned on coming to America. For the abundance of jobs America was hyped up in many countries as the ‘land of opportunity’. Really the motivation for immigrants coming to America can be summed up in two words; ‘push’ and ‘pull’. The push is the need to leave their country in order to survive. The pull is because they were attracted to the new way of life in America. The amount of time that most immigrants spent on Ellis Island depended on whether or not they had money.
The immigrants who were able to afford 1st and 2nd class were searched on the ferries prior to porting. These people were searched quicker because they were thought not to carry any diseases. The workers knew that if they were sick, they could just go see their doctor. However, most immigrant cant afford to come to America in style would have to go through Ellis Island. If they didn’t have a disease and were done being processed they were set free, after only staying at the island 5-7 days. Those who had diseases or couldn’t care for themselves were denied entry to the United States.
They had to wait for a ferry to take them back home. Later Congress also passed this act to provide for the examination of immigrants to exclude convicts, polygamists (which is someone who is married to two or more people at the same time), prostitutes, people suffering from diseases, a people liable to public charges. While on Ellis Island the immigrants had to go through many different tests and examinations. Doctors would check for diseases, and the slightest problems made the immigrants go back to their home countries. Although they were sent home, some immigrants didn’t want to give up that easily.
They would keep trying to come to the Americas; of course coming here requires money. Some immigrants couldn’t afford it, so the borrowed money from the ‘loan sharks’. Loan sharks are unlicensed lenders who will lend you money when no one else will. These loan sharks often target unemployed people, immigrants, or lone parents. The loan sharks would lend immigrants money and they would recollect it with a little profit from interest. Other times immigrants would get money from family already living here. Ellis Island could be heaven for one family, and hell for another. Many people were sent out, no matter what their age.
Families were broken apart because some members would be sent back, and some were allowed to stay. Immigrants would be sent one of three ways: New York, New Jersey, or to the hospital on the island (if they had a curable illness). If they did not have a curable illness or problem, then the steamboat company that brought them to Ellis Island had to pay for their way back home. And when they are passed, they either found their parents, siblings, spouses, or children. But some people came over to the States because they wanted to make as much money as they could to bring back to their family in their homeland.