“Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade visited Ellis Island, the historic site where millions of people arrived with the hopes of becoming American citizens, in a new season of Fox Nation’s “What Made America Great.”
From crossing the Atlantic Ocean in steamships to the medical and legal exams, Kilmeade learned about the journey step-by-step alongside immigration attorney Michael Wildes and park ranger Matt Housch.
“Can you imagine the butterflies? As you know, this is going to be the moment. There’s no guarantee you’re going to get into America. But now, the process starts,” Kilmeade said.
Expanding from 3 to over 20 acres, Ellis Island served as an immigration station for over 60 years. Kilmeade noted in the season eight episode that 40% of all Americans can trace a piece of their heritage back to Ellis Island.
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“Over 12 million people would come to this Island from the years 1892-1954, all with a similar dream: they wanted to be an American,” Kilmeade explained. “Whether they were fleeing poverty or oppression or just wanted a fresh start, they would steam here into New York and the first thing they would see is the Statue of Liberty.”
“This is the land of opportunity, of freedom, and of liberty.” – Brian Kilmeade in WMAG season 8
Crossing the Atlantic Ocean could take around ten days, and processing for some could take up to an additional couple of days to ensure no “serious grounds for deportation or exclusion.” Housch said there was believed to be an effort on the part of aspiring immigrants to “look well,” and healthy, upon their arrival.
“The two major standards of coming to the nation was that you weren’t going to become a public charge and that you weren’t going to disseminate any kind of disease,” Wildes noted.
In the episode, Housch walked Wildes and Kilmeade through the buildings to where the exams took place. Wildes estimated that about 10% of people who got off the ship were detained, where they were sent to attend another hearing before determining authorization.
After walking the path through the building, Kilmeade was taken to the Stairs of Separation. These stairs marked the point where the immigrants would embark on their next destination.
“It’s not the separation I love, it’s that they’re the original stairs. Just a soft kind of depression in the stairs because of how many people came down them. This is our staircase at Ellis Island that millions of immigrants went down,” Housch reflected.
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“This is the land of opportunity, of freedom, and of liberty. This wasn’t just another country. This was the country,” Kilmeade said of the experience.
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