Those immigrants who are to be deported, or who for any reason must be kept on the island some time, are placed in the detention quarantine. These are not open to visitors. Tiers of beds are provided, accommodating 1,800 persons, but often this number is exceeded by 500. These quarters are among the most interesting points on the island. The women and children of all races and tongues are in one large room, and the men in another. In mild weather they are all sent on to the fine broad roof of the building. Not long ago a Danish woman who could speak no English and whose baby was in the hospital with diphtheria, became a second mother to a coal-black pickaninny, (sic) who had come up from Trinidad on a coffee-ship and whose mother was also in the hospital. Again race wars occur among the children, and Turks and Armenians will battle ferociously with Italians. Mention should be made of the large immigrant dining-room which seats 1,100, where the missionary societies hold a polyglot Christmas entertainment each year.
But the observer at Ellis Island sees only the immigrant stream flowing in. He does not see what results when it has been distributed over the country. No graver questions are before the American nation to-day than those associated with immigration, and none whose correct solution demands more imperative attention. One of these vital questions which is in special imperative attention. One of these vital questions which is in special prominence just now, is the relation of immigration to mental disorders. This question concerns New York state more acutely than other states only because New York has the largest number of alien defectives.
In February, 1912, there were 33,311 committed insane cases in New York state institutions. It is estimated that more than 8,000 of these or, roughly, 25 per cent., are aliens, and this is exclusive of those conditions of mental defectiveness listed under idiocy, imbecility and feeblemindedness. In the New York schools there are about 7,000 distinctly feeble-minded children, or about 1 per cent. of the school population. Again this does not include idiots and imbeciles to an equal number, not attending school, nor border-line case and morally defective children. The total number of feeble-minded children in New York is about 10,000. According to the figures of the last census, 30 per cent. of the feeble-minded children in the general population throughout the country are the progeny of aliens or naturalized citizens. Thus the presence of 3,000 of New York's feeble-minded children can safely be laid to immigration. These figures show the extreme necessity of careful medical inspection of immigrants. But there are many complicating factors. It is difficult to recognize many types of insanity. It is almost impossible to detect feeble-mindedness in infants and young children. Yet in spite of this, the medical officers at Ellis Island are doing thorough and effective work, and do not at all deserve the ignorant criticism of those unfamiliar with the difficulties of that work.