These Dutch toddlers on Ellis Island are proudly holding their official papers allowing them to be new citizens of the United States.

Photograph by the Commission of Immigration (Ellis Island), courtesy National Geographic

Download this file

  • Select Text Level:

    On November 12, 1954, the immigrant-processing center at Ellis Island, New York, closed down. Ellis Island was the largest and most active immigration center in the United States, and had become a symbol of the hopes and challenges facing new immigrants to the country.
    In the 62 years it was open, Ellis Island processed more than 12 million people seeking a better life and the “American Dream.” The busiest year was 1907, when more than a million people passed through Ellis Island, most of them Italian, European Jews, Polish, and German.
    Today, immigration facilities and demographics are very different. Immigration detention facilities, for instance, are now operated by both the federal government and private industry. The largest facilities are in Puerto Rico, California, New York, Arizona, and Texas. Most new immigrants to the United States come from Mexico, China, and India.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    American Dream Noun

    set of ideals including personal freedom, equality, and the opportunity for economic and social prosperity.

    country Noun

    geographic territory with a distinct name, flag, population, boundaries, and government.

    demographic Adjective

    having to do with the social characteristics and statistics of a population.

    detention Noun

    state of being in custody or confinement.

    examination Noun

    test or observation of specific qualities.

    federal Adjective

    having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    medical Adjective

    having to do with the study of medicine or healing.

    operate Verb

    to control or manage.

    private industry Noun

    business not funded by the government.

    register Verb

    to enroll or be recorded in a list or database.

    require Verb

    to need.

    sailor Noun

    person who works aboard a ship.

    symbol Noun

    something used to represent something else.