lundi 11 juin 2007
par  Marie-Line Bouhatous

First mouvement of immigration.

In 1780, one American in four was a descendent of an English or an American. Between 1840 to 1860, the United States of America received the first important wave of immigrants, with a majority of Europeans, Irish, Germans or Jewish from East Europe. These communities are well represented nowadays

Today 22% of the Americans have some Germans roots 39 million of the population are descendents of Irish and American Jewish population immigrants reaches 5 million.

Ellis Island

At the end of the 19th century, the government decided to build a special por t for the immigrants on Ellis Island.

Between the beginning in 1892 and the end in 1954 Ellis Island was an open door of the States for more than 12 millions people. The Statue of Liberty is now a famous historical site.

Stop the immigration

In 1924, the law was expanded to let in northern and western Europeans and exclude almost everyone else. After 1924, with demands for further immigration restrictions, "The Quota Laws" would be passed and they would have a major impact on immigration. After they were passed Ellis Island was used only sporadically for immigration. It would be mostly used for detainees and refugees. Italians were detained, Japanese were interned, but the major group to be detained were German Americans during World War II falsely accused of being Nazis. The United States would begin processing immigrants in the embassies and consulates of the emigrant country.

New Communities

Today the Chinese community is the one that is growing the fastest. Among the other ethnic groups, the Asians living in the United States of America are the ones that own high and large number of students in prestigious universities .

In 1950 less than 4 millions of the population had Hispanics origins. Today, this total is more than 27 millions. Half of the Hispanics come from Mexico. The rest have left all kinds of places of Latin or South America, like the Salvador, Republic Dominican , Colombia and Cuba. More than a third of this community lives in California. For geographic reasons, the proportion of the Hispanics immigrants is really important in the frontier states : it’s the case for the Cubans in Florida and the Mexicans in the New-Mexico.

New objectives of the politic of immigration

The year 1965 has marked a change in the politics of American immigration. The national quotas have been replaced by the hemisphere quotas, preference was given to the parents of American citizens people with professional qualities to help the American work market.

Finally in 1978, the congress decided to abandon the system of hemisphere quota and adopted a new world level ,that gives more and more diversity to the different origins of the new arrivals.

Since 1990, the government has fixed a fate of 675000 people per year. The new law tries to select immigrants even more qualified and also to attract groups even less represented with the “diversity Visas” program.

Situated in the State of new Jersey, opposite New-York city, Ellis Island is the place where all the immigrants landed. It was the entrance towards New-York

The federal immigration station opened on January 1, 1892 and was closed in November 1954, but not before processing 12 million immigrants (estimates range up to 20 million). In the 40 years before Ellis Island opened, over 8 million immigrants had been processed locally by New York State officials at Castle Garden Immigration Depot in Manhattan. Many who were allowed entry settled in New York and northern New Jersey for at least their first few years in America. During this time period, Angel Island (between Alcatraz and the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco Bay) was opened on the West Coast, processing mostly Chinese immigrants.

Ellis Island takes its name from Samuel Ellis, a colonial New Yorker from Wales who owned the island during the late 1700s and kept a tavern, serving sailors and local fishermen. Samuel Ellis was a local farmer and merchant.

Extension of the Island

Thereafter, however, the federal government expanded the island by landfill, so that it could accommodate the immigration station that opened in 1892 (and closed in November 1954). Landfilling continued until 1934. Nine-tenths of the current area is artificial island that did not exist at the time of the interstate compact.

Before Ellis Island

Before 1892 and the opening of Ellis Island like centre of reception of the immigrants at New-York, the desembark of the travellers was at Castle clinton at the extreme south of Manhattan (Today at Battery park). Ellis Island was named Fort Gibson and was a military place part of a strategy of defense for the city against the British fleet.

The Island was considered like a good solution to insolate the arrivants before their acceptation and avoid escapes.

It will then be named Ellis island in reference with samuel Ellis, owner of this island in the years 1770, before its purchase by the state of New-York.

At the boat unload who had brought them here. The immigrants had to pass a medical test and an administrative test .The target of these tests was to check if the candidate was capable to work and earn his life but would not constitute a menace for the society.

Medical test

Symbols were chalked on the clothing of potentially sick immigrants following the six-second medical examination. The doctors would look at them as they climbed the stairs from the baggage area up to the Great Hall. Immigrants’ behaviour would be studied for difficulties in getting up the staircase in any way.


In case of refusal of the administration , the return of the candidate was done if possible in the same boat of the arriving, at the charge of different transporters.

The children less than 10 years old were refused and sent back accompanied by an adult in charge of the carriage but the ones that were over10 years old were considered capable of managing on their own .If one of the parents would accompany him back they had to pay the boat ticket for an adult.

Administrative Exam

The last exam was the legal exam. This exam was very frightening for some immigrants because they had to answer a lot of questions very quickly and if they answered one wrong they could be deported. They were asked about 30 questions in 2 minutes. In the legal exam, immigrants would be asked questions like : What is your name ? Do you have any relatives here ? Do you have a criminal record ? Have you ever been to the United States before ?

In order to pass the legal exam you had to have 25 U.S. dollars. If you did not have that much money, you had to stay until you got it. Legal inspectors would also check your ID to see if you were really who you said you were. Legal inspectors also determined if you were "Clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to land".

The Breslin family’s origins : un article écrit par Paul Eliott Angles D’auriac

The Breslin family is composed by Sam, his two brothers Jacob and Jason, and by his mother Liza and his father Peter.

On Peter’s side, his grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe (what is now Lithuania,
Poland and Austria) to the US in the early 1900s when each of them was 5-12
years old. All of them settled in New York, met and married and his parents
were both born in the Bronx, NY.

On Liza’s side, she has two different experiences. Her maternal
great-grandparents came to the US from Eastern Europe in the late 1800s.
Her maternal grandparents were both born in the US, which is somewhat
unusual for Jewish people- most of their ancestors came here in the 1900s.
On her father’s side, her grandfather left Russia to go to South Africa in
the early 1900s and then the US in the 1920s. Her paternal grandmother
left Poland for the US in the early 1900s. Liza’s parents were born and
raised in Brooklyn, NY.

The Breslin family has been in America for a long time, so they are totally integrated.









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