Castle Garden History 2

By: Lou Alfano

Immigrants didn’t always enter New York through Ellis Island…

…Before 1855, there was no immigrant processing center. The shipping company presented a passenger list to the Collector of Customs, and the immigrants made whatever Customs declaration was necessary and went on their way.

…From August 1, 1855 through April 18, 1890 they came through Castle Garden (also known as Castle Clinton). The State of New York opened the very first examining and processing center for immigrants on an island off the southwest tip of Manhattan (Castle Garden). Immigration remained purely an affair of State, not federal, government until 1882. The court decision affirming Congressional supremacy over immigration (under the commerce clause) came down in 1875. But Congress did not act until passing the Immigration Act of 1882, which authorized the Treasury Secretary to contract with the states for enforcement of that law.
…From 1882 the reception of immigrants was handled as a joint State/Federal system. The Secretary of the Treasury signed a contract with the New York State Commissioners of Emigration to continue its services at Castle Garden. On April 1, 1890, the Secretary terminated the contract and on April 18, 1890, the Treasury Department assumed total control of immigration at the Port of New York. The New York State authorities refused to allow the federal government to use the Castle Garden facilities.