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Tag: Ellis Island

Records of Rights Vote: The Immigration Act

Cast your vote for the Immigration Act to be displayed first in the new “Records of Rights” gallery. Polls close on November 15!

On November 13, 1954, Ellis Island closed. More than 20 million immigrants had been processed through the island station since its opening in 1892.

But immigration was still limited. From 1924 until 1965, a person’s place of birth often determined his or her ability to immigrate legally into the United States. Immigration laws favored people from northern and western Europe over those from southern and eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Numerical limits, often called quotas, were assigned to each country. For example, a 1924 law allowed about 4,000 Italians to enter the United States annually while about 66,000 could emigrate from Great Britain. Asian immigrants, who entered the United States through Angel Island, were already largely banned from U.S immigration by other laws passed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

When President Johnson signed the 1965 amendments to the Immigration Reform Act of 1952, that system of country-based immigration quotas was ended.

“This system violated the basic principle of American democracy–the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man,” said the President at the ceremony on Liberty Island.

The law authorized 120,000 immigration visas for people from the western hemisphere and … [ Read all ]

Ellis Island on the West Coast

For the thousands of immigrants from Europe, the entrance to America was through Ellis Island. As they sailed by New York City, they could see the Statue of Liberty standing in the harbor like a watchful guardian.

For immigrants from China and the Pacific Rim, another type of guardian awaited them in San Francisco Bay. They would need to pass through Angel Island.

From 1910 to 1940, Angel Island was the main entry point for China and the Pacific Rim (and many non-Asians).  But the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, meant to severly restrict the immigrantion of Chinese nationals, meant that Asians entering through Angel Island had to pass difficult interogations. Quok Shee was detained for two years before being released to her husband, Chew Hoy Quong. Other families had to pass tests that proved they were in fact from the same village.

These interrogations were recently recreated from Federal immigration files held by the National Archives at San Francisco as dramatic perfomances for a special centennial commemorative ceremony at Angel Island Immigration Station.

The Archivist attended the ceremony—you can read more about his experience and Angel Island on his blog AOTUS.… [ Read all ]

New York State of Mind–er, Archives

I’m beginning to wonder if we even covered the Civil War at all in AP History. Before joining the National Archives, I had never heard of the Battle of the Crater, did not know that Confederate ships sailed all over the world, and had no idea that the Civil War had a draft and you could get out of it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Did you know that the National Archives is also in New York City?

As my colleague Rob and I attempted to find the entrance on Varick Street, we weren’t too sure it was there. The Archives at New York is in a big building that houses other Federal agencies, including a detention center. We finally found the correct door, got through security, and made our way upstairs.

Staff are excited about their move to the Alexander Hamilton U. S. Customs House. It’s an accessible, welcoming space near the departure port for Ellis Island, with room for exhibits. Imagine going to Ellis Island, getting inspired about your family history, and then stopping by the Archives on your way home to do some free research at the National Archives!

But for now, you can do that at Varick Street. We met with Christopher Zarr, who gave us a tour of the classroom, exhibit space, and microfilm reading … [ Read all ]