Ellis Island Era Immigration Timeline: How It All Went Down

ellis island

During the decade of the 1880s, more than 5.2 million immigrants arrived in the United States through Ellis Island.  The following are only a few facts on how immigration and the immigration system began to develop during the decade.

May 6, 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act: Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, banning new immigration from China. This event marks the first systematic federal legislation to restrict free and open immigration into the U.S.

August 3, 1882 Immigration Act of 1882: This Act imposed a “head tax” upon all immigrants and deems several categories of immigrants ineligible for citizenship.

February 26, 1885 Immigration Restriction: Congress agrees to the demands of the Knights of Labor, restricting immigration in order to reduce labor competition and ease downward the pressure on wages.  The Alien Contract Labor Law makes it illegal for American employers to import “aliens or to assist in their importation..”

1886, The Statute of Liberty Dedicated: A gift from the country of France after a century of friendship with the U.S., the statute becomes an icon for generations of American immigrants, who steam past it en route to the nearby immigration stations at Castle Garden and Ellis Island.

May 4, 1886 Haymarket Riot: In the midst of nationwide labor unrest caused by workers’ demands for an eight-hour workday, thousands of workers rally in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. The Haymarket Riot stokes fears among many Americans of the dangers of foreign-born radicalism.

1890, Immigration of the 1890s: During the decade, at this point nearly 3.7 million immigrants arrive in the United States

After the decade and into the 1950s, Ellis Island’s famous Immigration Station is closed down by the U.S. government.  The era of the mass European immigration to the United States is over.