“Ellis Island was the great divide physically and psychological between the home left behind and the new life yet to begin. The trans-Atlantic trip took from eight to twenty days on average in the cramped quarters of steerage. Just reaching Ellis Island was a victory.”
Passengers above steerage were not subjected to the Ellis Island ordeal upon arrival in New York harbor. They were processed aboard the ship and delivered directly to Manhattan.
For steerage passengers it was different. They often had to wait three to four days for their turn to disembark. It was not unusual for them to spend several days and nights aboard the steamship before chartered ferries, which were in reality just open barges, would come to take them to Ellis Island for processing. There they were, ‘marooned’ aboard ship with the welcoming Statue of Liberty boldly staring at them and a wonderful view of the Manhattan skyline; unsure they would ever be allowed on shore.
They eventually stepped onto Ellis Island sick bewildered and exhausted. Despite this about 80% of the immigrants who landed passed all the examinations without difficulties. Only 2% failed to meet entrance requirements.
 Kinney, D.G. New York Times
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