Anniversary of Ellis Island

How immigration has changed throughout American history

Photo courtesy of via Creative Commons

Ashley Donohoe, Author

The month of January is known for being the start of a new year, and it was also known as the start of a new life for American immigrants of the past. On January 1st, 1892, Ellis Island opened the Federal Immigration Station for the first time. Throughout its history, Ellis Island processed many immigrants and helped them become a part of our country, but over time it began to stray from immigration and focused more on deportation. After laws restraining immigration in the United States, Ellis Island began to be mainly used for detention and deportation. This system lasted for several years, but eventually was shut down and Ellis Island was placed under the General Services Administration.

Lately, America has the new president-elect Donald Trump, who wants once again change the current immigration policy. On his site, the leader shares that he will, “Enforce the immigration laws of the United States and restore the Constitutional rule of law upon which America’s prosperity and security depend.” Many conservatives across the country agree with the prospect of cracking down on the travel into the country, but many democratic citizens think they should open up the borders and such immigrants should be citizens, much like how it was when Ellis Island first opened.

The Democratic Party Platform says that, “Democrats believe immigration is not just a problem to be solved, it is a defining aspect of the American character and our shared history.” This lead to president Barack Obama to prioritize immigration enforcement, along with offering deportation relief for young people who grew up in the States. On the other hand, our Supreme Court has kept the current president from deferring any other illegal immigration.

So during January, most people will create resolutions and plan out the start of their 2017, but maybe some will acknowledge the birthday of Ellis Island and how immigration has slowly changed in the United States. And even better, hopefully some of those people will create ways this problem can be solved, and deportation and detention facilities will not have to be used as often.


Timeline of Ellis Island


1892- Opening of the Federal Immigration- The Federal Immigration Station is opened on Ellis Island January 1st. 450,000 immigrants were processed in the first year, 700 of those on the first day.

1897- Fire at Ellis Island- Records dating back to 1855 are all destroyed in the fire.

1907- Height of Immigration at the Island- 1,004,756 immigrants passed through in that year.

1918- Sharp Decline in Immigration- In that year only 28,867 immigrants pass through.

1921- U.S. Congress Passes the Quota Law- This limits the yearly amount of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 3% of people in that country who already live in the U.S.

1924- Transition to Detention and Deportation- Ellis Island is now mainly used as a detention and deportation station instead of an immigration station.

1954- Ellis Island is Closed- The Island is closed and placed under the General Services Administration.

1990- Opening of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum- Visitors could first go inside the museum in 1990.