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Ellis Island filtration and how I think it effects modern day

Elena's picture

While speaking and reading about immigration to the US from Ellis Island and determinants of immigration restrictions, I thought of how this historical filtration impacts the structure of the US today. Using the imagery of a filter or funnel, people with undesirable bodies and minds were turned away from the border and marked as unworthy of fitting into the “American ideal.” This effectively “weeded” out large populations of disabled people, racially, socially, economically diverse people. It built the foundations of a socially constructed “American-Dream” ideal which is built on desirable genetic traits and maximum economic productivity. This narrative of America is reinforced throughout generations of White Americans whose families were “brave and strong” from crossing the border many years ago. It neglects, hides and avoids the conversation and reality of the history of immigration and what selective factors allowed people to successfully immigrate. People with disabilities were treated inhumanely and not valued due to likely to become public charges (LPC) clauses. This narrative is not carried through in the discussion of immigration and the foundations of the country. How does this history and generational narrative affect attitudes towards disabilities and differences now? The intense “selective” nature of the US makes it clear that discriminatory practices and filtration processes are still in place via immigration today. If we are not told of the history of immigration and what discriminatory or “alien” banning practices are still in place, when will we be able to accept disability and diversity in society? Furthermore, disability and diversity continue to struggle to be accepted into the US to start with (via births and immigration). 



jogengo's picture

Hey Elena! I think you make some really important points here. For me, personally, this class was very eye-opening for me personally as well. I really enjoyed your reflection on how we are only taught the American Dream narrative in school and how this distracts from the widespread "weeding" that you talk about. I think it's time that our education embodies a more honest history . . the true reality of immigration into the US is horrifying but also can teach very important lessons to those learning about this history.