In the Shadow of Liberty: The Chronicle of Ellis Island

By Edward Corsi | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER I
BEFORE BECOMING GUARDIAN OF THE GATE

"I CONGRATULATE you, Corsi," a friend said on the day after my appointment to the commissionership. "You've got one of the most important jobs in the country. You'll be helping to make America. After all, you know, this nation is only sixty-five per cent Plymouth Rock. The other thirty-five per cent is Ellis Island."

"Maybe," I said. "I'm part of that thirty-five per cent myself. But that's all over. They're not coming in a stream now, only in a thin little trickle. The racial proportions in this country won't change much from now on--not while I'm here, anyway. I'll probably have to send more out than I let in."

Nevertheless, during the three weeks which remained before I was to assume office I found myself thinking about immigration along new lines. My settlement work had, of course, introduced me to innumerable immigration problems. Even as a child I had been keenly aware of immigration as a factor in American development, though this awareness was largely the result of my observation of my parents' and neighbors' adjustments to a new country. I had thought about and studied immigration from an economic and national point of view. Now I began to think about it historically and dramatically. As a historical phenomenon the matter began to take on colossal proportions, and I saw that immigration, and immigration alone, had determined the life-blood of America up to this point, and its reference was not yet finished.

-35-

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