Contributo di Delia Socci Skidmore
L'ISOLOTTO DI ELLIS ISLAND
Ellis Island è un isolotto alla foce del fiume Hudson nella baia di New York. Antico arsenale militare, dal 1892 al 1954, anno della sua chiusura, è stata la maggiore frontiera d'ingresso per gli immigranti che sbarcavano negli Stati Uniti.
l porto di Ellis Island ha accolto più di 20 milioni di aspiranti cittadini statunitensi, che all'arrivo dovevano esibire i documenti di viaggio con le informazioni della nave che li aveva portati a New York. Medici del Servizio Immigrazione controllavano brevemente ciascun emigrante, contrassegnando sulla schiena con un gesso, quelli che dovevano essere sottoposti ad un ulteriore esame per accertarne le condizioni di salute (ad esempio: PG per donna incinta, K per ernia e X per problemi mentali).
Chi superava questo primo esame, veniva poi accompagnato nella Sala dei Registri, dove erano attesi da ispettori che registravano nome, luogo di nascita, stato civile, luogo di destinazione, disponibilità di denaro, professione e precedenti penali. Ricevevano alla fine il permesso di sbarcare e venivano accompagnati al molo del traghetto per Manhattan.
I "marchiati" venivano inviati in un'altra stanza per controlli più approfonditi. "I vecchi, i deformi, i ciechi, i sordomuti e tutti coloro che soffrono di malattie contagiose, aberrazioni mentali e qualsiasi altra infermità sono inesorabilmente esclusi dal suolo americano" rammentava il vademecum destinato ai nuovi venuti. Tuttavia risulta che solo il due percento degli immigranti siano stati respinti. Per i ritenuti non idonei, c'era l'immediato reimbarco sulla stessa nave che li aveva portati negli Stati Uniti, la quale, in base alla legislazione americana, aveva l'obbligo di riportarli al porto di provenienza.
Dal 1917, modifiche alle norme d'ingresso, limitano i flussi immigratori. Viene introdotto il test dell'alfabetismo e dal 1924 vengono approvate le quote d'ingresso: 17.000 dall'Irlanda, 7.000 dal Regno Unito, 5.800 dall'Italia e 2.700 dalla Russia. La Depressione del 1929 diminuisce ulteriormente il numero degli immigrati, dai 241.700 del 1930 diventano 97.000 nel 1931 e 35.000 nel 1932. Contemporaneamente Ellis Island diventa un centro di detenzione per i rimpatri forzati: dissidenti politici, anarchici, senza mezzi e senza lavoro vengono obbligati a tornare al loro paese d'origine. Gli espulsi a forza dagli Stati Uniti sono 62.000 nel 1931, 103.000 l'anno successivo e diventano 127.000 nel 1933.
Durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale vi vengono detenuti cittadini giapponesi, italiani e tedeschi e il 12 novembre 1954 il Servizio Immigrazione lo chiude definitivamente, spostando i propri uffici a Manhattan. Dopo una parziale ristrutturazione negli anni ottanta, dal 1990 ospita il Museo dell'Immigrazio
THE United States and Ellis Island
By Professor Virginia Yans-McLaughlin,
Rutgers University, New Jersy
In 1892, when Ellis Island opened its doors, the United States was the world's oldest democracy and one of its youngest nations. Much in need of the labor, brawn and talents of newcomers, this nation of people who were born and would continue to be born elsewhere, had to devise original methods for creating citizenship. One could become an American, as is the case in most western democracies, by being born here or by blood inheritance; but one could also choose to be American.
Immigration, supervised by the states if it was regulated at all before the 1880's, provided a clear case for the necessity of a central federal power which could deal systematically and uniformly with people crossing national boundaries and with the enormous numbers of immigrants seeking to fill America's never ending demand for labor. The 1885 Alien Contract Labor law presents one example of the difficulties of enforcing legislation without federal participation. Intended to protect the wages of American laborers, this law made it a criminal offense to import aliens under any prior contract for the performance of labor or service of any kind. The law made no provision for enforcement of its terms through inspection or deportation, and the states could not enforce it.
Main Fact 2
Congress passed a series of laws in this period which specified the kinds of individuals who would face deportation if they attempted to enter the United States. By 1917 the list was long. It included thirtythree classes of exclusions including: idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, epileptics, insane persons, previously insane persons, persons of constitutional psychopathic inferiority, chronic alcoholics, paupers, professional beggars, vagrants, persons with tuberculosis, or "Loathsome or dangerous contagious disease," anyone with a physical or mental defect which might affect his ability to earn a living, those who had committed crimes involving "moral turpitude," polygamists, anarchists, ....
In 1921, Congress initiated a major turnabout in immigration control policy, which it firmly institutionalized in 1924 when, subject to nativist pressures, it imposed a ceiling on immigration and quotas for various nations. So began a major shift in United States immigration policy which initiated the period of "quantitative controls" that remains with us still. With these quantitative restrictions in place, immigration became an alien's privilege, not an alien's right.
Passports and visas also came to be required in the post 1924 restrictionist era. Increasingly, Ellis Island was used as a detention and deportation center, rather than as an admission depot.
Ellis Island Immigration Museum
The Ellis Island Immigration
Museum is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and is one of
the country's most popular historic sites. In 2001, The Statue of
Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, in partnership with the National Park
Service, unveiled the American Family Immigration History Center®.
This exciting family research facility at Ellis Island provides visitors
with advanced computer and multimedia technology, printed materials, and
professional assistance for investigating immigration history, family
documentation, and genealogical exploration.
The museum is located in the Main Building of the former immigration station complex and tells the moving tales of the 12 million immigrants who entered America through the golden door of Ellis Island. Today, the descendants of those immigrants account for almost half of the American people.
· The museum’s self-guided exhibits chronicle Ellis Island's role in immigration history and include
artifacts, photographs, prints, videos, interactive displays, oral histories, and temporary exhibits.
· The American Family Immigration History Center®
· The American Immigrant Wall of Honor®
· Ellis Island Living Theater
· Award-winning film documentary "Island of Hope, Island of Tears"
The American Immigrant Wall of Honor®
A special feature of the Ellis Island museum, the Wall of Honor overlooks the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline and is the longest wall of names in the world. This unique display contains names of more than 600,000 brave men and women who, in leaving their homeland, risked everything to come to America. Each name was placed on the Wall by individuals who donated $100 in memory of their ancestors for the restoration of Ellis Island.
The American Family Immigration History Center®
This is an exciting interactive area at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. You can access the passenger records of the ships that landed some 22 million immigrants, crewmembers, and other passengers at the Port of New York and Ellis Island from 1892 to 1924. More than 100 million Americans may find records of their family's beginnings in the new world here. Experienced volunteers can provide guidance so visitors can view manifests and ship images from their ancestor's journey.
Ellis Island Living Theater
A new, live theatrical production that dramatizes the challenges of immigration in days gone by and today will premiere at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum’s intimate Living Theater beginning March 25, 2007 for a limited eight-month run.
Produced and funded by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., the 30-minute show will be presented seven times daily, seven days a week. Times are 10:45; 11:30; 12:15; 1:00; 2:30; 3:15; and 4:00. Reservations are highly recommended. Since the theater seats 56 people, some groups may have to schedule multiple shows. In making your plans, please note that the National Park Service, which administers Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, requires one chaperone for every ten students.
Due to security procedures, it is recommended that visitors plan their ferry departure from Battery Park in New York at least 2 hours prior to show time or from Liberty State Park in New Jersey at least 1-1/2 hours prior to show time. Ferry information is available by calling 1-866-STATUE-4 (1-866-782-8834) or at www.circlelinedowntown.com.
For more information or to make reservations, contact The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation at 212-561-4500, ext. 0 or email Theater@ellisisland.org.
Look here for more details about this exciting new show in February!
The Performers employed in this production are members of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. More on the Ellis Island Immigration Museum
Ellis Island is one of the country's most important historic sites and also one of the most heavily visited monuments. Carefully planning your trip will make it more enjoyable. The Circle Line-Statue of Liberty Ferry provides transportation to Ellis Island from Battery Park in New York and Liberty State Park in New Jersey from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, with extended hours in the summers.