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New Immigrants Essay Questions - Free to print (PDF file) for high school American History students.
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1. Explain the concept of nativism.

2. Illustrate the journey of new immigrants made to reach Ellis Island.

3. Compare and contrast the screening processes for new immigrants at Angel Island and Ellis Island.

4. Summarize the legislation that curtailed immigration from Asia.

5. Nativists feared that the new immigrants were from inferior races of people and that these new immigrants would take nativists’ jobs. Given the contributions that the new immigrants made toward building modern America, were these fears justified? Why or why not?
Angel Island and Ellis Island were two immigration processing centers in the United States, but they had different functions, locations, and experiences for immigrants. Here is a comparison of the screening processes at the two islands.

Ellis Island:

Location: Ellis Island is located in New York Harbor, near the Statue of Liberty. It primarily served as an immigration processing center for immigrants arriving on the East Coast, especially from Europe.

Function: Ellis Island processed immigrants primarily from Europe, including Italy, Eastern Europe, and other parts of the continent. It served as a gateway for millions of European immigrants to enter the United States.

Screening Process:
  • Medical Examination: Upon arrival, immigrants underwent a medical examination to check for contagious diseases or physical conditions that might make them ineligible for entry. Suspected cases were marked with chalk for further examination.
  • Legal Inspection: Immigrants faced legal questioning to confirm their eligibility to enter the United States. They were asked about their background, finances, and family connections.
  • Detention: Those with severe health issues or legal problems were detained for further examination or hearings. Most people passed through Ellis Island within a few hours or days.
  • Experience: While some immigrants faced anxiety and uncertainty, Ellis Island generally had a more efficient and less intimidating processing system. It processed immigrants relatively quickly, and most of them were admitted to the United States.
Angel Island:

Location: Angel Island is located in San Francisco Bay, California. It primarily served as an immigration processing center for immigrants arriving on the West Coast, especially from Asia.

Function: Angel Island processed immigrants, primarily from China, Japan, and other Asian countries. It was often referred to as the "Ellis Island of the West" for its role in processing immigrants arriving on the West Coast.

Screening Process:
  • Medical Examination: Immigrants underwent a medical examination similar to Ellis Island, checking for diseases or health conditions that could disqualify them.
  • Legal Inspection: Immigrants faced extensive legal questioning, which could be intimidating. The questioning aimed to confirm identity, family relationships, and eligibility.
  • Detention: Many Asian immigrants were subjected to prolonged detentions, sometimes lasting months or even years, as they awaited hearings or appeals due to restrictive immigration laws, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act.
  • Experience: Angel Island often provided a more challenging and restrictive experience for Asian immigrants. Prolonged detentions and interrogations were common, leading to feelings of isolation and anxiety for many immigrants.
Both Angel Island and Ellis Island played significant roles in the immigration history of the United States, but they had different functions, populations served, and experiences for immigrants. While Ellis Island was known for processing European immigrants efficiently, Angel Island had a more complex and often difficult process, especially for immigrants from Asia, due to restrictive immigration laws of the time.
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