- from Ellis Island
Most immigrants passed through Ellis Island in three to five hours, but about one in five was detained there 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 eventually be allowed to follow. Some immigrants were held for medical reasons, while others had to await hearings by a Board of Special Inquiry. Still others were detained because they seemed unable to make a living. Those who fell into the latter category were most likely to be deported (sent back to where they had come from).