It was a long, hard journey to the United States in the early 20th century, but even a successful voyage did not guarantee that the immigrant would be able to enter or stay. Deportation was a threat. When immigrants were deported, it could be because of serious crime like murder or petty crime like theft. The files stated “excluded as a person having been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.”
But how to stop immigrants from reentering under different names or identities? When they were deported, they were photographed, and their physical characteristics were recorded in writing, from their hat size to the condition of their teeth. (Only Chinese immigrants were also consistently photographed by the authorities, and they resented this suggested link between themselves and criminals.)
Why were these two individuals, Francesco Zaccaro and Dubas Wasyl, deported?
Zaccaro (“small, thin lips, medium chesnut mustache”) arrived from Italy on the SS Hamburg on February 17, 1907, and was headed to his mother-in-law’s house in New York City. However, he was deported and back on the SS Hamburg just three days later. He was excluded due to his crime of moral turpitude: He had served eight days in prison for “applying vile names to a woman.”
Wasyl (“small, thick lips, chesnut mustache”) came from Austria on the SS Kroonland. He arrived on November 13, 1906. But he never made it to his friend Lucas Nebozenski’s house. Instead, he was deported on November 21 on the same ship he arrived on. His crime of moral turpitude? Seven months in jail for being an accomplice to thieves and one month for stealing peas.
Although both men were deported, their paperwork remained in the United States. Eventually, these forms were accessioned into the permanent holdings of the National Archives as the Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Over a hundred years later, they were chosen by curator Bruce Bustard for the exhibition “Attachments,” where their faces look out over the crowds of the country they briefly stayed in.
“Attachments” is open until September 4, 2012.