About Save Ellis Island

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
— Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, 1883

Ellis Island immigration - women turned away

This heroic and moving poem refers to the tired, the poor and the oppressed, but it omits the reality that almost 10% of immigrants who came through Ellis Island arrived on our shores sick. When 3 million people each year visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in the restored Registry Building to pay tribute to this immigration story, they miss the story of the other Ellis Island – an evocative campus of hospital buildings where the sick were treated with compassion and America’s public health was protected.

The “other” Ellis Island

This is the story of the “other” Ellis Island – a story that powerfully resonates today as once again we confront global health issues and the massive migrations of people around the world.

This is the story that Save Ellis Island (SEI) is mandated to communicate and preserve, through the rehabilitation of 29 historic buildings that sit nestled in a park-like setting on the south side of Ellis Island, with a dramatic view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan – so near and yet so far for the immigrants who were too sick to enter the country.

Eye exam - immigrant checked by doctor in Ellis IslandMore than 1 million immigrants were detained on Ellis Island for failing the cursory medical inspection mandated by federal immigration legislation. Of these, 250,000 spent time in one of the hospital buildings opened between 1902 and 1911, constructed on fill that became known as Islands #2 and #3, opposite the main building that housed the Registry Hall. In all, 12 million immigrants came through Ellis Island during its years as an immigration station. Today, nearly 40% of Americans can trace their heritage to an immigrant who entered the country through Ellis Island.

Mission, Vision, Goals

Save Ellis Island’s mission is to preserve the historic hospital buildings on Ellis Island. Our goal is to encourage an understanding of immigration in a globalized world, a story that has always been a part of American history. Our vision is to engage the public in historic preservation by showcasing the rehabilitation and preservation of an American icon – Ellis Island.

Save Ellis Island, in partnership with the National Park Service, will rehabilitate and re-dedicate these buildings for public education and enjoyment – a place for civic discussion of issues that define our humanity, the constant movement of peoples around the globe and the impact of this travel on mutual respect, cultural tolerance and global health and well being.

Ellis Island mission


From 1892 to 1954, over 12 million immigrants entered USA through the portal of Ellis Island in New York Harbor

We are part of America's story

Ellis Island tells the story of the journey of millions of men, women and children from around the world who sought a new future on these shores.

Walking around these buildings we're not just talking about history-visitors are able to touch, feel, and understand in a way that connects them to the past. As we rebuild parts of Ellis Island, we are rebuilding its legacy and revitalizing living landmarks to a world gone by. Save Ellis Island is working to create a destination that echoes the beacon of hope that it once was for nearly twelve million immigrants and continues to be for the nearly two million visitors each year.

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Our Supporters

The Save Ellis Island website is made possible by a generous donation from Heidi Liebi Root in memory of her father Fred Liebi