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Ellis Island and Immigration Ellis island was a United States reception center for immigrants for more than 60 years It is located in New York Harbor less than 12 mile north of Liberty Island the home of the Statue of Liberty Over 12 million people first entered the United States through Ellis Island The island is named for Samuel Ellis a merchant and farmer who owned it during the late 1700s The United States government bought the island in 1808 The government began using Ellis Island as an immigration station in 1892 About 35 buildings were constructed on the island Newcomers were taken to the main building an impressive two-story wooden structure That building burned down in 1897 and was replaced by a three-story brick building The immigrants were questioned by government officials and examined by doctors Certain people were prohibited by federal law from immigrating to the United States They included criminals the insane and people who had infectious diseases But about 98 percent of those examined at Ellis Island were allowed into the country The islands large-scale use as an immigration station ended in 1924 The station closed completely in 1954 In 1965 the island became a national historic site part of the existing Statue of Liberty National Monument The conditions for immigrants on ships and after they arrived on the island were brutal Although passengers with first- and second-class tickets usually bypassed the process third-class passengers were inspected by doctors to ensure that they did not carry any contagious diseases The doctors became efficient at checking immigrants and were soon able to check for numerous medical conditions including anemia and goiter in only six seconds The immigrants papers were checked to ensure that they were not illegal contract laborers Those who failed one of these exams were sent back to their homeland Two percent of arrivals were denied entry Those who passed the test were allowed to start new lives in the
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