60 Years Ago Today: Ellis Island Shuts its Doors

On November 12, 1954, Ellis Island shut its doors. The immigration processing center has been both a symbol of America’s “land of opportunity” for “huddled masses” of hopeful immigrants, as well as a site where nativist American fears of racial and cultural difference targeted would-be immigrants. By the passage of the eugenics-motivated 1924 Immigration Restriction Act, the island had transformed into a multipurpose inspection, detention, and deportation center, where incoming migrants were screened for contagious disease and intellectual “unfitness” through a variety of standardized physical and mental tests.

From the “Manual of the Mental Examination of Aliens,” published by the US Public Health Service, for use by immigration inspectors at Ellis Island, 1912.


60 years later, amidst the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement, we ask: how does America receive (and remove) immigrants today?

An Honduran immigrant is loaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement onto a flight for his deportation. John Moore, 2013.



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