Beyond Ellis Island: Immigration after 1954

I’m embarking on a project that has been on my mind since 2008 when I first visited Ellis Island and had my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. I wondered, what was the process for immigrants after Ellis Island closed in 1954? For immigrants like my grandfather?

Grandpa's Karmann Ghia May 1971.jpg
Grandpa in his Karmann Ghia, May 1971
Mom, Dad & JG 1976 (1)
My parents with my great-grandmother, my mother’s maternal grandmother before my dad came to the U.S. in 1976. My mom would arrive the next year with my older brother, her brother and sister. My grandmother came later that year after her mother passed away.

In 2008 when I first thought about this project, I thought it would be a book, with each chapter profiling someone who left their home filled with hope for a better future in a country built by immigrants, for immigrants, and for their descendants for many generations to come. I would seek immigrants who came from different countries, in different years, for different reasons.

As I’ve thought about this project in the years since, podcasts and videos have become easier to produce and publish, and I’m finally brave enough to take on this project after many years of doubt and questioning how it could be done.

Interviews with each subject would look like this:

  1. Tell us about your time in your native country.
  2. Why did you leave your native country?
  3. What were you hoping to find in the United States? Do you feel that you realized those dreams?
  4. Tell us about the journey to the United States – as much detail as possible about leaving your native country, the trip itself, and coming to America. Please include where you left your native country, the date you left your country, the date you arrived to the U.S., your port of arrival, any other countries you traveled to before you arrived to America, and also where you first lived in America.
  5. What have you accomplished since you arrived in the U.S.?
  6. Have you been able to visit your native country? How often, and how has that country changed?
  7. What are you most proud of?
  8. When did you start thinking of yourself as “American” and not the nationality of the country you emigrated from?
  9. What advice would you have for future immigrants coming to the United States?
  10. What advice would you have for the children of immigrants?

I would also talk to the children of immigrants. Being the child and grandchild of an immigrant, I naturally had a lot of questions for my parents and grandparents about what could not have been an easy decision to make about leaving India in 1968 (my grandfather), 1976 (my dad) and 1977 (my mom, brother, aunt, uncle and grandmother). I can’t ask my grandfather since he passed away in 1990, but my inner journalist kicks in during family visits, and I find myself asking my grandmother, parents, aunts and uncles about coming to America, and what challenges and successes they encountered.

I have India covered obviously, but I would love to talk to people who have come from other countries, and during different time periods as well. I think that it was especially difficult for immigrants coming from Asia and Africa in the 1950s to the 1980s when there was more apprehension about cultures that most Americans had never been exposed to.

Do you know an immigrant that would be willing to talk to me about their immigration to America?

Sarat & Meka Grandparents Jan 77
My paternal grandparents with my brother in India before he came to America with my mother and our aunt and uncle in 1977.

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