Source: NYT (8-11-09)
Immigration files containing a wealth of information collected by American border agents, some of it dating from the late 19th century, will be opened to the public soon and permanently preserved, providing intriguing nuggets about such famous immigrants or visitors as Alfred Hitchcock and Salvador Dal.

But to millions of Americans, the real treasure will be clues about their own families’ histories in the photographs, letters, interrogation transcripts and recordings that reflect the intense scrutiny faced by those trying to enter the United States during an era when it waged two world wars and adopted increasingly restrictive immigration policies.

Under an agreement signed this year, the files, on some 53 million people, will be gradually turned over by the Department of Homeland Security to the National Archives and Records Administration, beginning in 2010. The material, accounting for what officials describe as the largest addition of individual immigration records in the archives’ history, will be indexed and made available to anyone.