True Immigrant Tales: Vietnamese Boat People

[In 1979, tens of thousands of Vietnamese boat people, many of them actually Chinese, fled the communists in flimsy, overcrowded boats. Many drowned or were killed by pirates, but several hundred thousand reached refugee camps in other countries. Here is one refugee’s story; he came to the U.S. in 1980 at age 17.] “Our boat … More True Immigrant Tales: Vietnamese Boat People

True Immigrant Tales: The Many Interpreters at Ellis Island

With thousands of immigrants were arriving daily, Ellis Island officials were hard pressed to find enough interpreters to process the many nationalities.  In 1911, Commissioner William Williams reported to his superior in Washington on how many interpreters knew how many languages and pleaded for more multi-lingual personnel: “Languages known by interpreters: Arabic (2), Albanian (2), … More True Immigrant Tales: The Many Interpreters at Ellis Island

True Immigrant Tales: The Quality of the Food in Steerage

This is an undercover government inspector’s report to the U.S. Immigration Commission about the food served to steerage passengers on a ship that sailed from Europe to Baltimore in 1908. Breakfast always consists of a cereal, coffee, white bread, and either butter or prune jam. In the afternoon coffee and dried bread were served. The … More True Immigrant Tales: The Quality of the Food in Steerage

True Immigrant Tales: The Stench of Steerage

This is an account of an undercover U.S. government inspector sailing to the United States with central and eastern Europeans in steerage class from Gdansk, Poland, in 1908. “The steerage was located in the bow of the vessel. The first entirely enclosed deck extending the entire length and width of the steamer was termed the … More True Immigrant Tales: The Stench of Steerage

True Immigrant Tales: After Ellis Island

The travail for immigrants wasn’t limited to the journey and Ellis Island processing. They could still be exploited and/or treated harshly before reaching their final destination as this 1910 report to the Presidential Commission on Immigration reveals. “At Ellis Island, the inspection by the doctors and the officers of the Immigration Service was quickly completed.  … More True Immigrant Tales: After Ellis Island