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>JN Aug. 5, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 142
Dakar Search Continues with US Assistance
An American nuclear submarine has begun searching for the crew
of the Dakar submarine which disappeared Jan. 8, 1968, en route
from Britain to Haifa. The US submarine has the most sophisticated
sonar equipment available and officials are hopeful new information
may be uncovered that will give a clue as to what happened to the
vessel and its crew of 69.
Ellis Island: The Island of Tears
By Shelley Gollust (VOA-Washington)
Ellis Island in New York harbor saw the arrival of 12 million
immigrants between 1892 and 1924. They came on ships from many
countries including Ireland, Italy, Poland and Russia. Today, 40
percent of America's population has at least one family member who
immigrated through Ellis Island. As someone once said, for many
Americans it is holy ground. This is the experience of one
immigrant on Ellis Island many years ago.
As the ship sails into New York harbor, the passengers crowd each
other to get their first look at the Statue of Liberty. There she
stands, arm raised high, holding the light of freedom. They have
spent weeks inside the dark, wet ship. Now they are marched off to
a small island. Everyone is tense. This place -- Ellis Island --
is a door into an unknown world. And no one can be sure what is on
the other side of the door.
The immigrants enter a big building. It is made of red brick and
stone, with big rounded windows. It is beautiful and proud, like
a king's palace. Inside, the immigrants struggle up stairs to the
Registry Room, the "Great Hall." Doctors and nurses watch them
closely. Anyone who shows signs of weakness or sickness might be
sent back home. Medical inspectors put marks on the clothes of
those with possible health problems. An "E" means eye trouble. An
"H" means heart disease. An "X" means mental disorders.
Next there is a legal inspection. Officials sit at tall tables at
one end of the Great Hall. They ask questions, quickly. "Do you
have a job? Do you have money? Are you an anarchist? Can you
read and write?"
Hundreds of immigrants wait their turn in the Great Hall. Sunlight
flows in through the rounded windows. Outside, across the water,
they can see the tall buildings of New York City. The Great Hall is
noisy with the sounds of different languages. There are joyful
meetings as family members and friends greet new immigrants.
The inspections usually last a few hours. Then the immigrants walk
down a divided set of stairs. It is called the "stairs of
separation." The stairs on the left lead to the boat to New York
City. The stairs on the right lead to the railroad office where
immigrants can buy a ticket to travel to other parts of America.
The stairs in the center are for those who must stay on Ellis
Island, temporarily. About 20 percent remain for several days or
weeks. Some are sick. Others are held for legal reasons.
Only 2 percent of the total are forced to return home. The most
common reason for rejection is infectious disease. Some people are
sent back because they have no money or job skills. Some are
unmarried women, traveling alone. Some are criminals, or people
with unpopular political ideas.
A surprising fact is that many immigrants who were permitted to
stay, did not stay for long. One of every three who came to
America during the 1900s chose to return home again.
Those were busy days on Ellis Island as 5,000 immigrants moved
through the center almost every day. There were 33 buildings where
people ate, slept, and received medical care. There were
representatives of 40 different religious, cultural and social
service agencies. These groups helped immigrants find work or join
family members already in America.
Conditions on Ellis Island were not always pleasant. The food was
often bad. There were not enough beds. And those who were forced
to stay waited days or weeks without knowing what would happen to
them. So, there was a reason why Ellis Island also was known as
the "island of tears."
1907 Was the busiest year on Ellis Island. More than 1 million
immigrants passed through in that year. At the time, America
needed workers. Immigrants were accepted quickly. Then an
anti-immigration movement arose. Congress passed laws restricting
immigration for people of some races and national groups.
Some immigrants continued to come to America through Ellis Island
after 1924. But most of them already had been inspected and
approved at American embassies in their home countries. Ellis
Island began to be used mostly as a holding place for illegal
immigrants. The United States Government finally closed the
immigration center on Ellis Island in 1954.
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