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 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

True Immigrant Tales: Sexual Abuse in Steerage

[This is further testimony about sexual harassment and abuse in steerage class, taken from testimony given by a female government inspector, disguised as an immigrant aboard ship, reporting in 1909 to the Dillingham Immigration Commission.] “There was an outside main deck and an upper-deck on which the steerage were allowed.   These were each about 40 feet wide … More True Immigrant Tales: Sexual Abuse in Steerage

True Immigrant Tales: American Men Did Not Wear Beards

[In 1907 at age 10, Edward Corsi arrived with his family at Ellis Island. Twenty-four years later in 1931, President Herbert Hoover would appoint him as Commission of Immigration at the Port of New York. Three years after that, after leaving the Immigration and Naturalization Service, he wrote him memoirs. This is an excerpt from … More True Immigrant Tales: American Men Did Not Wear Beards

True Immigrant Tales: H.G. Wells Visits Ellis Island

[British novelist H.G. Wells (War of the Worlds) visited Ellis Island in 1906 and described his impressions in his book, The Future in America: A Search after Realities. Here is an excerpt.)  I visited Ellis Island yesterday. It chanced to be a good day for my purpose. For the first time in its history this … More True Immigrant Tales: H.G. Wells Visits Ellis Island