The “Undesirables” sent back from Ellis Island

“Hungarian Gypsies all of whom were deported” reads the caption of this photo, published alongside a February 12, 1905 New York Times piece.

The article tells of the pressure on William Williams, the new commissioner of immigration, to judge who was fit to enter America and who was deemed undesirable and kicked back to Europe. 

His job was to carry out the law—namely the 1891 Immigration Act, which put tougher restrictions on who was allowed into the United States.

“A strict execution of our present laws makes it possible to keep out what may be teemed the worst riff-raff of Europe—paupers, diseased persons, and those likely to become public charges—and to this extent these laws are most vaulable,” Williams told the Times.

“But these laws do not reach a large body of immigrants, who, while not riff-raff, are yet generally undesirable, because unintelligent, of low vitality, of poor physique, able to perform only the cheapest kind of manual labor, desiring to locate almost exclusively in the cities, by their competition tending to reduce the standard of living of the American wage-worker, and unfitted, morally or mentally, for good citizenship.”

Tags: , , , , , ,

6 Responses to “The “Undesirables” sent back from Ellis Island”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Looks like a bunch of hippies from the ’60s. How did they get in? Ha ha ha ha!

  2. petey Says:

    slightly off topic, one of my mother’s brothers had conjunctivitis and was denied entry. so back on the ship he went, first port of call montreal – where he bolted and came in through the canadian border!

  3. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    That’s a great story! I have never heard of a undesirable making good, as I’m sure many of them could have. Thanks for the family history 😉

  4. Katie Says:

    My great-grandfather, Boleslaw, came from Poland as a young man around the turn of the century. His family was numerous but had only enough money to send one of them to America and originally it was supposed to be an elder brother that went, but the elder brother was denied his travel visa because of poor eyesight! My great-grandfather took his place. 🙂

  5. Nabe News: May 17 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] was in charge of Ellis Island “undesirables”? [Ephemeral […]

  6. What one painter saw on a visit to Ellis Island | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] But in 1922, her work took a more somber turn. That year, she spent time visiting Ellis Island and composed at least two dozen paintings based on the women and children she saw in the detention areas—the rooms on Ellis Island reserved for immigrants who were at risk for one reason or another of being sent back to their native countries. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: