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Documentary feature.

The faces of immigrants to the U. S. have change over the years. The fear of the other never has.

The film illustrates the influence of American eugenics on the medical and mental inspection of immigrants at Ellis Island, and its underlying agenda: race purification. It is also a personal story of a Polish peasant from Galicia, Austria, who travels to America only to be excluded and deported.

The visual fabric of the film is woven entirely of still images. The narrative gives voice to eugenic proponents, believers, and practicioners through a wealth of eugenic source materials, brought out of obscurity.

The eugenic ideology has been discredited and rejected. But it has not been forgotten or laid to rest. It still reverberates in public discourse both civil and political: from the eugenic medical doctors at Ellis Island and eugenic ideologues to Hitler and the nativist Donald Trump.

Mental Examination of Aliens

“We in the United States have an opportunity, which is unique in history, for the practice of eugenic principles. Our country was founded and developed by picking men and women. And today, by selecting our immigrants, we have the power to pick out the best specimens of each race to be the parents of our future citizens.”

- Robert DeCourcy Ward,
Professor of Climatology at Harvard University,   
eugenicist, co-founder of the Immigration Restriction League


X-marked immigrants

“Previous to 1883, Western and Northern Europe sent a stalwart stock, …they were the best of Europe's blood. They were industrious, patriotic and farsighted. Where nothing had been, they planted, and mined, and built, and toiled with their hands, while educating their children and teaching them to love the new mother country. But for the past three decades, more and more the immigrant tide has flowed from eastern and southern Europe: the Jews, Slavs, and those from the Mediterranean countries (Italians). As a class, they contribute little of lasting value.

- Dr. Alfred C. Reed, Assistant Surgeon, U.S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service, Ellis Island

New immigration


"Why is it that we get so few Germans and Britons today, while we are getting so many undesirable and unintelligent people from Southern and Eastern Europe?"

"Those people who came from Great Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia more closely resembled in blood, tradition, and ideas our own people."

"That class of people is undesirable because they are unintelligent, are of low vitality, or poor physique, are able to perform only the cheapest kind of labor, and are totally unfitted mentally or morally to become good citizens."

"An enduring commonwealth must of necessity guard rigidly the health of its citizens and protect itself against undesirable additions from without. It can be truthfully said that the dregs and off-scouring of foreign lands, the undesirables of whom their own nations are only too eager to purge themselves, come in hosts to our shores. The policy of those advocating free immigration would make this country in effect the dumping ground of the world."

- William Williams, Commissioner of Immigration, Ellis Island Immigration Station




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