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Becoming American Immigrants

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The requirements of becoming a citizen in the United States have changed drastically over the last few centuries. Becoming a US citizen is a lengthy, stressful and expensive process. Parts of the process are based luck, while other parts are based on tests and interviews. Through history, the process of becoming a citizen has gotten harder and harder. Edwidge Danticat’s short story “Caroline’s Wedding”, the processing center at Ellis Island and the historical change of immigration laws show and compare the struggle of becoming a citizen in the United States. In 1892, the immigration center at Ellis Island was opened up in order to process immigrants seeking citizenship in the United States. About twelve million immigrants were processed on…show more content…
People were either denied or granted citizenship due to many factors, but a major factor was their wealth status. Immigrants were sorted into groups in order to be processed and questioned. People who were able to afford a more expensive ticket on their travels were often rewarded citizenship over poorer candidates. If immigrants sailed either first-class or second-class they often did not even have to go under inspection, unless they were considered unhealthy or had legal problems. When checking for health, they would check their hearts, for “lameness”, suspected mental illness, trachoma, and if they were unsure they would label them as “examine further”. “Ellis Island” by History.com states that in order to check for trachoma, examiners would use a buttonhook to turn immigrants’ eyelids inside out, resulting in a painful and scary situation. After passing the sickness test, they were asked many different questions, including where they wanted to live and what type of job they wanted to find. Starting in 1917 they had to read a passage in their own language to gain citizenship. They also had to pay a fee of fifty cents. If they did not pass the test or failed to pay the fee they were sent back to their home countries, or held at the Ellis Island hospital until they were well enough to be released as a citizen into the United…show more content…
The dormitories and hospitals at Ellis Island were also known for unpleasant conditions. It was suggested by the British Parliament at the time that conditions would be improved by examining immigrants at the ports of departure, so that it would improve efficiency and help ease disappointment when people were denied citizenship. “Sir Auckland Geddes suggests that some way ought to be found to examine immigrants at the ports of departure, so that those who are sure to be turned back tor one reason of another shall not make the journey only to meet disappointment at the end” (American Periodicals 562). There was much debate about how immigrants should be processed and if it should be on American soil or foreign soil. Many immigrants complained about the bad conditions on Ellis Island, but also the heartbreak of being denied at the island.
There are many different reasons immigrants decided to move to America. However, historians believe that the major reasons were economic hardship, war, force and religious persecution. John F. Kennedy states in his book A Nation of Immigrants, “There were probably as many reasons for coming to America as there were people who came”. America is known as the “melting pot” because of all of the immigrants that came to the United States. Everyone had their own reasons for coming to the states,
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