The following short article appeared in the LOOKING BACK column of THE FORWARD, the leading Yiddish newspaper in the United States. It is a replica of a news item that appeared 90 years earlier.
Hundreds of recent immigrants, including many Jews from Russia, Rumania and Galicia, are detained at Ellis Island or sent back to their homelands for no apparent reason, the Forward reports. In one day alone, hundreds of steerage passengers are detained solely because they do no have enough money–despite the fact that they are young, healthy and able-bodied. Investigations into this Inquisition-like treatment have caused finger pointing among the clerks and guards who work at the immigration center. Meanwhile, innocent victims continue to be held in detention cells like criminals.”
The consequences of deportation for those denied entry to the United States could be devastating. People lived with the terror of being rejected after having come so far. Immigrants had sold all their worldly possessions in order to finance the trip. Many had gone into debt to buy their tickets. Deportations meant separation from family and guaranteed impoverishment if they returned to Europe. For Jews fleeing Czarist Russia, the forced return could also mean death.
The rewards of America were potentially great. The risk of being denied entry was enormous. Yet they came by the millions.
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