Ellis Island Filled to Limit with Immigrants - 1920

Overcrowding at Ellis Island Causes Unusual Sleeping Arrangements for Immigrants.

Overcrowding at Ellis Island Causes Unusual Sleeping Arrangements for Immigrants. Future American "Putting Up" with Uncle Sam. Over a thousand Immigrants were recently forced to sleep on blankets spread on the floors in overcrowded Ellis Island. Our treatment of the Immigrant is "criminal," declare several Investigators, and Commissioner Wallis agrees with them. Photo © International. The Literary Digest, 30 April 1921. GGA Image ID # 14d1aaf0ec

The rising wave of immigration swamped Ellis Island completely today. Although every available inch of space at the immigration station is utilized and for night after night this week aliens have been sleeping on the branches in the concourse, the limit was reached last night when the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria sought to discharge 735 steerage passengers to avoid being delayed beyond her schedule in departing for Europe.

By an emergency arrangement, the immigrants were housed at Quarantine. But there are still seven liners in the bay unable to dock or proceed because there wasn't any place where they can discharge their thousands of immigrants.

The total number of immigrants arriving for the week ending today was 26,710. Of that number, more than 10,000 have yet to be inspected. Inspection is falling behind lather than gaining on the arrivals. And Immigration Commissioner Frederick Wallis said today that the force and the facilities for inspecting and housing immigrants are totally inadequate in the face of the increasing rush.

Some of The Ships at Anchor in The Bay

Transatlantic ocean liners are awaiting a chance to discharge their steerage passengers arrived early in the week. Because of the delays experienced, the ships cannot unload and get away on schedule. In the case of some carrying important international mails, the delay is severe. In all instances, the break in schedules means a business loss.

The ships now being held up, together with their quotas of ste3rage passengers which have not yet been inspected are:

  • SS Amerika 2.630
  • SS President Wilson 1.075
  • SS Patris 796
  • SS Kaiserin Augusta Victoria 1,010
  • SS Mexico 900
  • RMS Adriatic 1,290
  • SS Kroonland 1,200

Steamships and their quotas of steerage passengers inspected during the week were:

  • SS Manchuria 1,300
  • SS France 892
  • SS Stockholm 778
  • SS Edellyn 950
  • SS Duca d'Aosta 1.307
  • SS Madonna 1,350
  • SS Columbia 517
  • SS Oscar II 741
  • SS Stavangerfjord 900
  • SS Nieuw Amsterdam 1,700
  • SS Belvedere 1.511

The first and second cabin passenger inspections bring the total for the week up to 18,009.

"We need enlarged quarters," said Commissioner Wallis. "Ellis Island is not adequate in the face of this growing rush of immigrants. There is only one thing, however, of which the public can be assured. No matter how big the rush, we will not lose our heads and put immigrants through without proper examination. Too little caution in measuring immigrants to American standards in the past has been the root of much of our labor and social trouble."

"Ellis Island is Filled to Limit," in The Leather Workers' Journal, Kansas City, MO: United Leather Workers' International Union, Vol. IV, No. 1, October 1920, p. 16.

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