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1954: New York's Ellis Island closes
New York's main immigration control centre, Ellis Island, has shut down after 62 years.

The site, which has admitted around 15 million people into America from overseas since it first opened in 1892, will no longer be used as an examination centre for those wanting to live in the United States.

The functions of the island will be transferred to the Immigration Service's headquarters in New York City.

From now on, would-be US citizens will be free to enter the country without inspection on arrival.

The only exception to the rule will be those who have either been provisionally admitted on parole or sentenced to deportation for violation of US laws.

Former arms depot

Over the years, Ellis Island has been the chief immigration centre for the US.

Many people from overseas had to spend a day or two at the site while their papers were being processed.

The US government originally bought the island from the New York state for $10,000 (5,500) in the early 19th century.

The site had previously belonged to Manhattan merchant Samuel Ellis and it was passed to his heirs in 1808.

For a while the island was used by the US government for arms storage but local residents objected.

Then it became an immigration centre and by the turn of the century up to 5,000 people a day came through its doors hoping for a better life in the US .

But following the introduction of new laws, wars and economic recessions, numbers have slowed considerably.

The authorities are currently in the process of deciding how best to preserve the historic site.

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Ellis Island, pictured in 1947
The immigration centre was once owned by businessman Samuel Ellis


In Context
Once Ellis Island closed its doors, several proposals were put forward for its use - among them, an immigration museum, a home for the aged, drug addicts, advanced alcoholics and a theatre.

When it was put up for auction in 1961, no substantial offers came in for the abandoned site and fours years later President Lyndon Johnson declared Ellis Island a national monument.

It was opened to the public on a limited basis between 1976 and 1984.

An organisation called the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation then started a major restoration programme and it was eventually re-opened in September 1990 as an immigration museum.

It now receives almost two million visitors a year.

In 1998, sovereignty of the island changed from New York to New Jersey, following a US Supreme Court decision.

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