18.06.23 Top Things Learned at Ellis Island

June 22, 2018

What Does The Past Teach Us About The Current Immigration Debate?

Our top 3 takeaways from a conversation withA librarian and historian at the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, Barry Moreno.

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“Illegal Immigration’ hasn’t ALWAYS existed.

There was a time in America when “illegal immigration” did not exist.

If you wanted to come to America, you could travel with ease.

After the Civil War, the Federal Government became more powerful and this set the stage for more centralized immigration reform.

Immigration: A State Issue

  • Ellis Island opened in 1892
  • First federal facility for immigration in American history.
  • Symbolizes the first major move by federal govt to regulate (and profit from) immigration.
  • Immigration previously managed by individualA states and cities. In fact the nation’s first immigration centerA ever was in NYC – “Castle Gardens.”

Children: Immigration

  • 17-year-old Annie Moore = first immigrant processed at Ellis Island in Jan 1, 1892.
  • Native of Ireland.
  • Traveled with her 2 younger brothers to meet parents in NYC.
  • If parents/child detained at Ellis Island, they stayed with their mother – as long as they were under 16-yrs-old – in the women’s ward.

We asked Mr. Moreno what historical context he feels is often missing from current conversations on immigration – His answer may surprise you! Read More:

On June 20th, 2018 Jenna Lee, Founder of SmartHER News, spent 2 hours speaking with the librarian and historian at the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, Barry Moreno. Mr. Moreno has written several books including The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ellis Island

Below are highlights from their conversation:

The SmartHER News 3 Top Take Aways fromA librarian and historian at theA Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, Barry Moreno:

1. First person processed through Ellis Island – a teenager with her two brothers.

Annie Moore was the first immigrant processed by Ellis Island in Jan 1, 1892, at 17-years-old. She traveled with her two younger brothers a\u0013 a total of 12 days at sea – to be reunited with her parents who were already here from Ireland. In many ways, she serves as an example of a typical immigrant of those days, arriving in America through a legal port of entry to be reunited with family and to start her own. A She married a German-AmericanA husband,A spent herA entire life in an immigrant neighborhood on the Lower East side of New York City and gave birth to 10 children.A Children arrived with mothers traveling without their husbands/other family members all the time, according to Mr. Moreno (children also arrived alone like Annie). If the mother or child had to be detained, they”d beA kept together on Ellis Island.A *If* the child was under 16-years-old, they”d be allowed to stay with theirA mothers, which is one of the reasons why the women”s ward was often very crowded.

2.A IllegalA immigrationA hasn”tA ALWAYS existed in America.

Before the Civil War, there was no such thing as an illegal immigrant – if you wanted to come to America, you just came to America!A Of course, all sorts of issues surfaced as immigration became more vibrant – especially in NYC. Crime. Crowding. Disease.A This was bad for the immigrant AND for the city and state.A New York developed the nation’s first immigration center, Castle Gardens, where immigrants A would register. Mr. MorenoA mentionedA this not only allowed the government some idea of who arrived in the city (many ofA whom left to travel to other places because of New York”s goodA railroad system) butA registration also allowed the government to work more efficiently. Immigrants could be referred, based on their profile, to non-governmental agencies, like local charities or churches, instead of automatically using government resources or welfare.

3. Immigration laws *originally* a state issue.

As states like NY and California addressed immigration, theA federal government remained on the sidelines. As Mr. Moreno explained, the government did not have the resources to help the states, and the states viewed the Federal Government, in general, as a hinderance to their efficiency (or knowledge) of handling local issues. However, a series of court cases (many addressing taxes or fees placed on immigrants at the state level) came before the Supreme Court – and the court ruled the federal government had the power to regulate immigration as a foreign affairs issue.A A Mr. Moreno mentions that timing of this is also very important.A This happened in the years following the Civil War, which forever changed the role of the Federal Government as a powerful central force with the power to makeA lawsA that all states had to follow.

We asked Mr. Moreno his opinion, based on his depth of knowledge, on what historical context is missing from the current immigration debate.A He said as a historian, he feels two things stand-out about immigration. A 1. Over the years, immigration is about betterment a\u0013 bettering American society. Different generations interpret this differently, but it”s a theme. 2. The role of the federal government has changedA dramaticallyA overA theA years. In fact, the role of federal government to pass sweeping immigration reform is a relatively new *acceptable* idea to the American public. 120 years ago, it would not be natural for Americans to think the government, removed, isolated fromA localA issues, could solve what many viewed as a state ad local issue. PerhapsA immigration issuesA haven”t changed so much as we have changed the way we view the solutions.

Have a question for Mr. Moreno? Email us! info@SmartHERNews.com

by Jenna Lee,