- from Ellis Island
Most immigrants passed through Ellis Island in three to five hours. However, about one in five was detained on the island for further inspection.
For them, Ellis Island became an island of tears. This was a time of great anxiety for detainees and their families, who had two choices. They could either wait for the detainee, or leave and hope that the detainee would be allowed to follow later. Some immigrants were held for medical reasons. Others were held to await a hearing by a Board of Special Inquiry. Still others were detained because they seemed unable to make a living. Those in the last category were most likely to be deported, or sent back to where they had come from.