Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 2:03 pm | Fair 76º


‘Forgotten Ellis Island’ Documentary Screens Saturday at Ventura Film Festival

Immigration, health care were intertwined in New York Harbor a century ago

Immigration and health care have been intertwined throughout U.S. history. Forgotten Ellis Island, a documentary by Lorie Conway that screens as 12:50 p.m. Saturday at the Ventura Film Society Festival 2010, brings this point home with a compelling look at the medical wing of the nation’s most famous port of entry.

The Ellis Island immigrant hospital opened in 1902, a massive and modern complex that grew to 22 buildings. It was America’s first line of defense against contagious, often virulent disease. Tens of thousands of immigrant patients were separated from their families and detained in the hospital before the emergence of antibiotics. Many were healed and allowed to enter the country to become citizens. Some died there. Others were deported.

More than 350 babies were born on Ellis Island, many named after the doctors and nurses who helped deliver them, while 10 times that many died there — buried in paupers’ graves around New York City.

“To those who went through it, it was one of the most precious gifts you were given, because when you were sick you couldn’t do anything about it,” said John Henry Wilberding, a German immigrant who was hospitalized with the measles on Ellis Island in 1928. “But here was a place that rescued you.”

Forgotten Ellis Island screens at 12:50 p.m. Saturday at the former Ventura Elks Lodge, 11 S. Ash St. Click here for tickets and information, or call 805.641.3845.

— Mark Dispenza is an associate at Holmes & Holmes Insurance Agency, 299 N. Fairview Ave., Suite 200.


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