National Treasure Blog Post#3 —Anisha DeSilva

One of the files I came across this trip was about Reidley or Ridley Whitely. In his questioning, he stated that he was a 31-year-old East Indian sailor. He said that he came to Brooklyn on or about August 1, 1922, as a crew member of a British vessel. One of the papers in his file stated that “he is a native of the Barred Zone; he cannot read; he has no friends or relatives in the United States; states he is ill and unable to maintain himself.[1] This paper is referring to is the Barred Zone Act (1917), which imposed literacy tests and barred immigration from the Asia-Pacific zone. Another page even recommends that he should also be deported because he was a person likely to become a public charge as well. When asked about his deserting, he replied that he never intended to desert his ship. He said that he “went ashore to buy some things but I was taken sick and the ship sailed without me.”[2] His sickness, illegal status and race make him more eligible to be declared as an LPC.

One question that I found interesting was when the Inspector asked him if he was addicted to the use of drugs. His response to that question was “no, but about a year ago, I was with four men, two Americans and two East Indians who gave me something to drink. Since then I have been sick-weakened joints, headache, and dizzy spells.”[3] At the time of his questioning, the United States experienced a nationwide prohibition. His possible consumption of alcohol furthers his status as an LPC. Another paper in his file stated that “he has the appearance of one who is or has been addicted to the use of drugs.”[4] This sentence, in particular, makes me wonder if his inspector his connecting his sickliness to drugs. If so, could this be an early case of racial profiling?

Whitely also said that he has been to the United States before 1922. On Ancenstry.com, I found that he journeyed from Liverpool to New York on January 22, 1919.[5] He came via the Cretic, which had numerous South Asians as crew members. While his exact position cannot be determined, his record recognizes him as a Bengalize man who is able to read. His literacy status from this 1919 manifest differs from his 1924 case file. Could his inspector be fibbing it to ensure that he would be deported?


[1] Jones, Immigrant Inspector, Ellis Island, N.Y., August 26, 1924, File 55404/397; Court Transcript, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, (National Archives, Washington, DC.)

[2] Jones, Immigrant Inspector, Ellis Island, N.Y., August 26, 1924, File 55404/397; Court Transcript, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, (National Archives, Washington, DC.)

[3]Jones, Immigrant Inspector, Ellis Island, N.Y., August 26, 1924, File 55404/397; Court Transcript, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, (National Archives, Washington, DC.)

[4] Jones, Immigrant Inspector, Ellis Island, N.Y., August 26, 1924, File 55404/397; Court Transcript, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, (National Archives, Washington, DC.)

[5] Year: 1919; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2620; Line: 23; Page Number: 155

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