Every year the second grade class at our school learns about immigration in the early part of the 20th century. The culmination of their lessons on this is their half-day Ellis Island Experience. They spend most of the morning in a hot, dark, and cramped ship (made of desks in their classroom with the heat turned on). There are various activities during that time but I’m not a part of that so don’t know exactly what. Each student has been given an identity and the history of an immigrant. They are dressed for their roles and have bags with all their earthly belongings.
At about 11:00 AM they arrive at “Ellis Island” and have to face first the medical inspector and then the immigration officer (that’s me). If they are found well enough by the medical inspector and if everything else is in order, they are allowed to enter the united states. In this case the quota for immigrants from Ireland had already been reached and I had to send the Flanagan family home to Ireland. The three boys in the class were not happy about not being able to enter America and they learned first hand why Ellis Island is sometimes known as the Island of Tears.
This photo is the class (including the boys) back on the boat after they were all done, “coming to america.”