Guiding Questions:

What was the procedure for gaining entrance to the United States through Ellis Island from 1891-1924?

Was entrance to the United States equal despite social class?

What would keep an immigrant from being allowed to enter the United States after traveling from a far destination?

What responsibility to public health did the immigrant have?

What responsibility did relatives have when a family member was detained for medical reasons?


Examination at Ellis Island

From 1892 and 1954, twelve million immigrants entered the United States through the immigration processing center known as Ellis Island. Let's begin our journey by building some background on the procedures for entering the United States through Ellis Island.

In an effort to stake a claim on United States citizenship, immigrants faced many obstacles to entering the country. There was a specific law (The Immigration Act of 1891) that identified five major reasons why an immigrant would be denied entry in this country, including:

  • person is engaged in criminal activity
  • person is insane
  • person is likely to become a public charge (unable to financially support themself so that the government would have to pay for the person's expenses)
  • person's passage on ship was paid for by someone else
  • person suffers from a terrible or contagious disease
Well-baby clinic at Ellis Island

In this lesson, we will focus on those people who were denied entry because of illness or disease. Each of you will be assigned to one of three families who had children that were denied entry to the United States and were sent to the hospital at Ellis Island. You will have access to the primary source documents that explain each family's unique situation.

Header Image: Waiting for Examination, Courtesy of TRITEC/Ellis ISland

Inline images: Examination and Well-Baby Clinic, Courtesy of TRITEC/Ellis Island