Nothing New Under the Sun


Last weekend Zsófi and Juli came over to New York from Trinity and on Saturday we went to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which is hosting the National Museum of Immigration. For decades, this was the entry point for millions of people arriving to the United States. With a few personal items and all the money they have saved, they came to start a new life in this far away land. Today their descendants make up a large portion of this country.
After arrival the newcomers went through a basic health check and were asked some questions, mainly to determine whether they will be able to sustain themselves. Only 2% of the arrivals were turned back.
Some of those who made it to the continent were welcomed as a source of cheap labor, but some Americans considered them to be a cultural and economic threat (e.g. in the case of Chinese immigrants in the 19th century).
After settling down in the U.S., some of the immigrant men were longing for wives who shared the same language and customs, therefore so-called “picture-brides” from the old country were courted through the mail. The young women who accepted such marriage proposals first met their future husbands on Ellis Island. Occasionally, men and women changed their minds when they saw their intended spouses, but most of them eventually married, some right on Ellis Island.

My impression after visiting the museum was that people and their mindsets do not change (much), only the world and the technology around them. Nowadays immigrants arrive to the U.S. by plane and not ships, but the focus is still on fear, rather than possibilities.

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