Once in America, most immigrants entered the country through a place called Ellis Island, which is in New York. Ellis Island opened to immigrant processing and passage on January 1, 1892. The first building that was built for the immigrants to enter burned down, so a new building, made of brick and limestone was built. This building was even busier and served as many as a half-million immigrants a year. Between 1900 and 1914, years immigration rates reached one million people per year. Because Ellis Island was so busy, the federal government expanded the facility from three acres to 27 acres. The size of the building was increased as well, adding a third story. Over time, this one building grew to 33 total buildings.
Forty percent of U.S. citizens can trace their family’s ancestory to Ellis Island. Between the years 1900-1924 there were days that more than 10,000 people passed through the processing building at Ellis Island. More than three-quarters of these people were allowed to enter the U.S. within a few hours, but there were immigrants that did not make it past Ellis Island.
More elite and wealthy passengers on the ships were allowed almost immediate entry into their new country. But those on the lower levels of the ships, who were usually of the peasant class, were given more thorough inspections. They had to travel from the initial landing zones to the actual Ellis Island where this processing occurred. The barges they road on during this trip were freezing cold in winter and stifling in summer. They lacked toilet facilities and proper medical attention if needed. There were occasions where these passengers were left on these barges for days while they waited to disembark at Ellis Island.
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