• New York served as the entry point for immigrants coming to the United States for over six decades. Many chose to make New York City their home, establishing ethnic enclaves like Chinatown.


    For most of the 1800s, immigrants to New York came from Western Europe, especially Ireland and Germany. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, immigrants were overwhelmingly from countries like Italy and Russia; a large proportion of Russian immigrants were Jewish. Today, immigrants to New York are most often from Latin American, Asian and Caribbean countries.

    Ellis Island

    In 1890, the federal government took over the regulation of immigration from the states. Ellis Island, the first designated federal immigration center, opened in 1892 on an island near the Statue of Liberty. Until its closure in 1954, Ellis Island processed over 12 million immigrants.


    According to Paul Boyer et al. in "The Enduring Vision," by 1890, 80 percent of New Yorkers had been born in other countries or were the children of immigrants.

    Attraction of New York

    Nancy Foner, a sociologist, argues that New York represented America to immigrants. As more immigrants became New Yorkers, the city drew others because recent immigrants wrote to friends and relatives about their opportunities there. The creation of ethnic enclaves turned New York into a place where recent immigrants would not feel out of place.

    Modern Trends

    Foner reports that since the 1960s, New York City's rate of immigration is about 100,000 new arrivals annually.


    From Ellis Island to JFK: New York's Two Great Waves of Immigration; Nancy Foner; 2002

    National Park Service: Ellis Island History and Culture

    The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People to 1877; Paul S. Boyer; 2009


    Irish Immigration to New York City from the Lower East Side Tenement Museum

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