Although most viewers interpret this image as immigrants arriving in New York, the scene actually depicts men and women traveling in the lower-class section of the steamer, the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II, going from New York to Bremen, Germany. Some critics have suggested the image records immigrants who were turned away by US Immigration officials and were forced to return home. While this might be true for some of the passengers, it is more likely that most of them were highly skilled artisans, such as cabinetmakers, woodworkers and marble layers, who were traveling back to their homelands upon the conclusion of their temporary two-year visas.