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provided for examination at overseas consulates. After the laws were enacted, Ellis Island's role changed dramatically; it became a detention center for new immigrants with problematic paperwork or questionable health and a point of deportation for aliens who entered the U.S. illegally or violated the terms of their admission.11 During both World Wars, the government used hospitals and dormitories on the island as detention centers for suspected enemy aliens, especially those of German, Italian, and Japanese (WWII) descent. Edward Corsi, commissioner during the early 1930s saw the deportation and detention programs as a "weeding out of ugly and sick elements in our national life," a sentiment which the government and many Americans shared.12 The Golden Door was not completely closed, however, for the 1948 Displaced Persons Act allowed extra numbers of immigrants to enter, opening America's shores to refugees with no homes after WWII. For many of those same people, the door wildly swung shut again in 1952 with the passage of the McCarran-Walter Act which rigidified the quota system and barred all aliens who had been or were members of totalitarian, and especially Communist, organizations.13 Once again, Ellis Island became a sad place of travellers marooned on their way to new lives and people puzzled by bureaucracy.

By 1954, numbers of people entering Ellis Island had dropped so low and the buildings were in such poor shape that officials decided the facilities had finally run their course of usefulness. Accordingly, the remaining immigrants were released on parole or transferred to the Immigration Services offices in New York, and on November 12, 1954, the last immigrant left, the last official locked the door behind him, and the gateway which had stood open for sixty years closed forever.14


11. Unrau, Historic Structure Report; Ann Novotny, Strangers at the Door: Ellis Island, Castle Garden, and the Great Migration to America (Riverside, CT: Chatham Press, 1971).
12. Quoted in Wilton S. Tifft, Ellis Island (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1990), 124.
13. Novotny, Strangers at the Door; Tifft, Ellis Island.
14. Novotny, Strangers at the Door; Pitkin, Keepers of the Gate.
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