The 12 million migrants that tread the grounds of Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954 tell one story of immigration and encourage visitors to make connections to the ever-evolving narrative of mass migration and the American dream. But these stories are not without their share of trials and hardships. Failed health inspections, unsatisfactory processing interviews, and government-sanctioned exclusions of Chinese immigrants, World War II-era Jewish refugees, anarchists, communist, Iranians, and HIV positive persons over the years sent freedom-seeking hopefuls packing; not to mention the difficulties faced upon actually starting a new life in a foreign land.
As history repeats itself and discussions surrounding vetting policies, terrorism, relief efforts, and the economic implications of mass migrations take center stage, education proves more crucial than ever. Each year, over 650,000 students, many of which are the children of immigrants or foreign-born themselves, engage with programs and resources at the national park. The Ellis Island Immigration Program's education department invites students from around the country to visit the iconic gateway and undergo the kind of processing faced by yesteryear's immigrant first hand. Ellis Island serves to prompt discussions amongst middle schoolers; creating a climate of tolerance, understanding, and positive solutions in the future.