How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Oral histories of Ellis Island go online

Photo courtesy of Erica Marshall/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A "buttonhook eye inspection" for infection eye diseases at Ellis Island

A collection of the oral histories of more than 1,700 immigrants who arrived through Ellis Island that was previously only available to visitors has gone online.

The collection has been up since yesterday at It's a collaboration with the National Park Service, which began recording the oral histories in the early 1970s and housing them at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. The interviewees were from numerous countries and ranged in age from 46 to 106 when they participated, relating memories about their immigrant experience and their adjustment to life in the United States.

More than 12 million immigrants were processed at the Ellis Island station, which was open between 1892 and 1954. The vast majority made it into the country, though some didn't.

Searches of's U.S. Immigration Collection, which also includes passenger and naturalization lists, will be free through Sept. 6. New York's WNYC featured clips from a couple of sample histories today.


In the immigrant detention system, female detainees face risks

Photo by Brennan Cavanaugh/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A participant in a rally outside a contractor-run immigrant detention center in New Jersey, March 2009

Earlier this month, I linked to a story out of Texas about a guard from an immigration detention facility being arrested for allegedly fondling female detainees. The only unusual thing about it was that he was arrested; the type of allegations made were not. Having reported on immigration for several years now, these kinds of stories are, unfortunately, not that uncommon.

In a report issued last week, Human Rights Watch compiled a list of sexual assault incidents, known and alleged, within the extensive network of immigration detention facilities under the auspices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the vast majority of the facilities operated by contractors.

The report points out how vulnerable female detainees are in what by and large remains a prison-like environment, despite federal government plans for reform. As has been pointed out when other problems have occurred in the detention system, i.e. poor medical care or overcrowding, oversight continues to be an issue. The Obama administration has made some changes after promising to overhaul the detention system, but the report maintains that oversight and accountability are still lacking.


The road to U.S. citizenship, on today's Patt Morrison show

Photo by US Army Korea-IMCOM/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A cake at a U.S. military naturalization ceremony in Korea, December 2008

This afternoon's Patt Morrison show on 89.3 KPCC will be examining the process of becoming a U.S. citizen: how long it takes, how expensive it is, and what it takes for immigrants to navigate a complicated legal system.

The show airs from 1 to 3 p.m. At 2 p.m. an immigration expert will be in the studio to answer questions about how to surmount barriers to naturalization. If you’re going through the naturalization process, or if you recently obtained citizenship, KPCC would like hear your questions and experiences.

Share your story here on the Multi-American blog, or privately at

(In 2008, a record 1,046,539 people took the citizenship oath. The number of new citizens for every year since 1907 can be found in the Department of Homeland Security's 2009 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.)