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Immigration Archives - The Administration of the Immigration Law

The general administration and supervision of the immigration service has been placed by Congress in the hands of the Commissioner-General of Immigration. His official status is that of a bureau chief in the Department of Commerce and Labor. Final authority is, of course, vested in the Secretary of the Department.

The Commissioner-General at the most important ports of entry is represented by a Commissioner of Immigration, who has charge of the immigrant station and a number of inspectors; in smaller stations an inspector is placed in charge.

The immigrant station in New York is the largest, and may be taken as representative of the entire system of administration and inspection of incoming aliens. The immigrant inspectors with the health officials board incoming vessels carrying aliens. The steerage passengers, together with any aliens in the ship's hospital, are transferred by barges to Ellis Island, the sick aliens being sent to the immigrant hospital. The other aliens are first reqiured to pass
in single file before two surgeons of the Marine Hospital Service, who simultaneously make a double examination, one into the general physical condition of the alien, the other for signs of trachoma. If there is any doubt about an immigrant's physical or mental condition, he is detained for a more rigid examination.

The women are examined separately by matrons. Any pregnant woman is held for a special examination, on the ground that she is liable to become a public charge.

After the physical test, those who successfully pass are arranged according to the order of their names on the ship's manifests, and are then passed in single file before other inspectors for further examination.

These inspectors ask the same questions which the immigrants were required to answer in filling out the manifest, and make note of any discrepancies in their replies in red ink. The immigrant is also required to show the money he has in his possession. Any persons concerning whose status the inspectors have a doubt, are detained. The others are allowed to pass through the gates, where they can buy tickets to their final destination, or receive assistance in finding relatives and friends.

The aliens who have been detained are required to appear before Boards of Special Inquiry, appointed by the Commissioner-General. They consist of three inspectors, the decisions of two being final. An appeal may be taken from these boards to the Commissioner of the port, from him to the Commissioner General, and from the Commissioner-General to the Secretary of Commerce and Labor. The President may, of course, if he wishes to do so, review any case.

The proceedings before the Board of Special Inquiry are private, but a complete copy is made of the record. In case of appeal, the record goes to the Commissioner of the port, and the detained immigrant appears before him in person. After the Commissioner renders his decision, the papers in the case are sent to Washington and placed on file.

Immigrants detained either because of special inquiries or appeals, are maintained by the Government at the expense of the steamship companies. Those who are to be deported are held until the vessel on which they came is ready for its return voyage.

Diseased aliens are treated in the immigrant hospitalon Ellis Island until the time for their return to their native countries. In the case of contagious diseases which are not dangerous, or other curable diseases, when the alien intends joining a husband or wife in this country, he or she is allowed to stay in the hospital until a cure is effected.

Jeremiah W. Jenks, Ph.D., LL.D. and W. Jett Lauck, A.B., "The Administration of the Law" In The Immigration Problem, New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1912, P. 322-324.

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