The Refugees Here
by Gerhart Saenger, in the Survey Graphic, November 1, 1940
FOR THE PAST SEVEN YEARS A THIN STREAM OF REFUGEES HAS been flowing into the United States. The Germans came first. But with the widening of the Nazi orbit, refugees arrived from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Poland, Scandinavia, and western Eurpe. Some are political refugees who had opposed the advance of Nazism. Others are people who have been persecuted for their religion. In the past eight years 75 percent have been Jews; 25 percent Protestants and Catholics. A final group consists of those who, though not forced to leave, preferred a life in free America to a life in fascist Europe.
How are we going to help the refugees find a place in the life of the nation? How must such help be constructed, to interfere as little as possible with the economic situation and to help the American people benefit from the arrival of the refugee? These questions do not only concern the organizations which were formed to deal with the refugee problem. They are of great concern for the general public. Without its cooperation a policy concerning the refugee can neither be constructed, nor can it work. Without an adequate understanding on the part of the public, the efforts of these organizations will be greatly hampered.
How Many Refugees?
BEFORE WE DISCUSS SUCH POLICY IT IS NECESSARY TO BECOME familiar with the group. How many refugees entered the United States; who are they? Our policy will be determined by these factors.
If we consider all immigrants from Nazi Germany and countries now occupied by it as refugees, the number here amounts to approximately 110,000. Frequently it is said that the refugees in this country aggravate the unemployment problem. To discover whether this holds true, one ought to consider not only the refugee but all immigrants. Between June 1931 and June 1940, altogether 527,000 immigrants have entered this country: one third of them came from Mexico, Canada, and South America; more than one third were voluntary emigrants from free European nations; and only slightly less than one third, refugees. In addition, one has to consider the number of people who left the United States permanently—over twenty thousand in the past year alone. From June 1931 to June 1939 a total of 376,395 aliens departed.
Did the influx of immigrants, including the refugees, increase the alien population of the United States? During the period from 1930 to 1939, 790,152 aliens died and 1,329,809 became citizens by naturalization. The rapid reduction of the alien population would not be materially changed even if the full quota of all countries under German or Italian domination were used. The total annual quota for all these countries is 53,671, which, due to financial, transportation, and administrative difficulties, was not filled last year. Very few refugees have come Norway or Denmark, France or Belgium.
Refugee immigration is no mass problem and cannot influence the national economy or the population distribution to any large degree. Nevertheless, it is important to consider the significance of the refugees in the American economic scene.
Refugees and Jobs in America
LESS THAN HALF OF THE REFUGEES COMPETE IN THE market. In the typical group which arrived here between June 1938 and June 1939, more than half had not worked in Europe. They include children, old people, and house wives. This means that even under the most optimistic circumstances, under which all people formerly working in Europe would find a position here, not more that 49,000 new competitors would have entered the employment market during the last nine years, an average of 5,500 per year. But this figure is too high. Apart from fact that not all refugees find work, a large number of them are in non-competitive occupations. The 12 per who are skilled workers and artisans do not compete because there is no surplus of skilled craftsmen in the United States. If we subtract their number from the total group, the number of potential competitors is further reduced to 37,000. While data on the exact number refugee enterprises have not been completed so far, a preliminary study of 300 such businesses indicates they employ 2,700 workers, of which 2,000 are native Americans. On the other hand, while only a little over a third can be considered as potential competitors, all refugees are consumers.
These economic facts are important for any consideration of the refugee problem. Their immigration does not present an economic problem for the United States. In fact, the refugee group is an economic asset. In England, before the present war, 11,000 refugees employed 15,000 British workers. Though no figures are yet available, it is probable that similar conditions exist in the United States.
Adjustment to America
IMMIGRATION PRESENTS THE FURTHER PROBLEM OF THE adaptability of the newcomer. It has always been the policy of the United States to judge the adaptability of the immigrant according to his cultural level. One of the earliest measures for the restriction of immigration was the introduction of the literacy test.
According to these criteria, the refugee should be exceedingly adjustable. There are three times as many refugees from the upper social and economic classes as in a comparable non-refugee immigrant group. Over half of all refugees have worked in vocations requiring a high school education. A large percentage of refugees have attended universities (8.3 percent).
The background of the refugee is different from that of former immigrant groups. The Polish or Italian peasant, the Russian artisan or the Irish farmer, who immigrated thirty or fifty years ago, may never have crossed boundaries of his home town or village before he emigrated. Distant cultures were unknown to him. His education was limited. America was as strange as a different planet. Adjustment was frequently quite difficult. Many former immigrants, in this country for thirty or years, still live in foreign sections of the large cities, do not speak English, and are socially isolated from their American environment.
The refugee group, for the most part, has had previous contacts with other cultures. Through books and newspapers, schools and universities, they are acquainted with different ways of thinking. Their living standard is high. The refugee is accustomed to the democratic view of life.
The great sympathy of the American public further facilitates their adjustment. Before the turn of the century the immigrant was often left to himself. Early attempts at Americanization were often taken without considering the psychology of the immigrant. The awakened social consciousness of our time has led to a scientific Americanization program supervised by workers. The Americanization of the average refugee day is a matter of a few years instead of one or two generations.
So far we have considered refugee problem only from the point of view of the American. From the point of view of the refugee it is he who has to make sacrifices. From a life of security and high social standards, he has to adjust to a much lower standard of living. Few refugees will come up to their former level of achievement. They will have to find a place in a country which has widespread unemployment. But the refugee has great potentialities which can be developed with proper assistance.
Such aid begins from the moment the refugee reaches these shores. Most refugees arrive here without money. Many are worn out by a long flight which may have led them around the whole world, from Berlin via Siberia and Japan to America. Whether in Boston or in York, Miami or San Francisco, as soon as the ship docks, more than half of the refugees are met on the quay by the dock workers of large welfare organizations; others are met by relatives or friends or are well able to look after themselves. The National Council of Jewish Women, the Committee for Christian Refugees, the National Catholic Welfare Conference, and other organizations share this work. They assist children who have been separated from their parents, help the old, and refer those who have neither money nor friends to immigrant shelters. Sponsored by charitable organizations, these special shelters provide free room and board for a temporary period.
Not all refugees who arrive here without means can be accommodated in these shelters. Only in rare cases will it be possible for them to secure a job immediately. Some, after the hardship of a flight from wartorn Europe, are not able to look for a job immediately after arrival. A short period of rest, time to recover from the deprivations and terror of persecution and war, is necessary.
The story of the H. family is typical. The father, formerly a manufacturer in Austria, was released from a concentration camp in the spring of 1939 and ordered to leave the country with his wife and two children within forty-eight hours. All his possessions had been confiscated. Under the cover of night, the family fled to Belgium and from there to Portugal. Forbidden to work, they, together with hundreds of other refugees, were fed and housed by an emergency committee. With four other refugees they shared a single hotel room. Their daily food allowance was restricted to a minimum. After nine months of waiting, they crossed through the mine-infested waters to America.
To rehabilitate the H. family and the hundreds of other refugees who have undergone similar experiences, some financial assistance usually is necessary. Until a job is secured, the newcomers must be supported by relatives, friends, or charitable organizations. Where friends or relatives cannot help, or are unable to live up to their promises of support, agencies such as the National Refugee Service, the Committee for Catholic Refugees and the American Committee for Christian Refugees (Protestant) give relief. All the committees together have an average monthly case load of about 3,500 cases. Many of the emigrÈs however, need financial support only during the first six months. The low case load does not mean that only a few refugee families are in need of assistance. It signifies that most refugees arriving here without money are taken care of by friends and relatives.
As soon as possible, the refugee begins to look for a job. But many difficulties face the refugee seeking employment. Large scale unemployment limits the opportunities; discrimination against aliens further restricts the employment market. A majority of refugees were merchants, salesmen, independent entrepreneurs, and professionals, most of whom cannot continue their calling over here.
First of all, there are legal restrictions. At present only four states allow refugee physicians to continue in their profession. Lawyers, even if they were able to adjust to a totally different system of law, are not admitted to the bar before they become naturalized. Civil service employee teachers in public schools, and pharmacists also have to be citizens.
There also are differences in business and industrial techniques, here, which create problems for the refugee salesman, the business man, the. advertising expert, and certain technicians. Training as well as business and production methods vary considerably in Europe and America. The German apprentice system provides for an all-around training lasting three years. During this time, the trainee works in all departments of a large business enterprise and learns a number of widely different activities. But the American system is based on specialization. In Europe many products, made here entirely by machine, are made, at least partially, by hand.
Such differences are most evident in the garment industry in which a large number of refugees had worked. In America, a man’s suit is almost entirely machine-made. In Europe, the material is given out to tailors who cut and sew the suits in their homes. A special person, the manipulist, is entrusted with the supervision of home production. As a result of different production methods this vocation does not exist in the United States and the manipulist has to change his occupation.
Unfamiliarity with American life further limits the refugee’s ability to compete. Even salesmen successful in Europe may fail here because they are unfamiliar with local conditions in the American community. An American salesman knows the college which his customer attended, the club to which he now belongs. He is able to discuss local politics, baseball and football. The refugee cannot do so, nor does he have community connections. He does not belong to the Elks or the Legion. He has not learned to master American sales techniques.
A fourth setback for the refugee is his ignorance of the best method of applying for a job. The European. method is to present all testimonials, to report at length about one’s education, former positions, and even one’s family. Such practice, carried over here, surprises the American business man. The European boss states abruptly, and not too politely, that he cannot use a person. Judging from past experiences, the refugee will therefore interpret the polite refusal: “Come back in a week,” or, “We haven’t anything just now, drop in again,” as almost a promise of future employment. He will be bitterly disappointed when he returns, while the boss arrives at the conclusion “that refugees are impertinent and obtrusive.”
What happens if the refugee has to find out for himself all these differences between his former and future home? For a long time he nurses false hopes. Until he finds out that his former training does not suffice in a country with different business and production methods, he has lost valuable time and energy. In vain he has tried to enter occupations for which he is not fitted, according to American specifications. The inevitable result of such trials will be frequent periods of unemployment and constant job changes, followed by discouragement and nervous breakdown. Those without money will have to be supported by relatives or refugee committees. Ignorant of the different methods, he will accept jobs which he cannot fill, thus antagonizing American employers and creating resentment against refugees. Finally, he fails to obtain positions for which he is really fitted because he does not know how to apply.
The special employment service, which has been established, knowing both the refugees and the American labor market, represents a sound policy both from the American and the refugee’s point of view. Here the refugee can obtain expert advice, is told which jobs he can fill, and how to apply.
THE VALUE OF THESE AGENCIES IS PARTICULARLY EVIDENT in cases of exploitation. Each successive immigrant generation has been exploited by employers trying to take advantage of the newcomer. The same is true today. Employers often consider it charity to give work to refugees and believe that they ought to receive lower wages. If the refuge objects to such a policy, he is accused of being “ungrateful.” Miss D., a trained laboratory assistant from Vienna, was employed at the B. factory. She received $80 per month while her colleagues got $120, though all of them did the same work. When she complained, she was fired: “You should be grateful that we employed you, a refugee,” her boss. “You lower the American standard of living by your unfair competition,” said her colleagues. The refugees are unable to cope with this situation. Employment agencies for refugees, however, deal with this problem by refusing to accept such offers.
But not all positions for refugees are obtained through committees. Many refugees looking for jobs do not know of the wage-hour law and the minimum wage stand The former professional or small shopkeeper in Germany was unfamiliar with unions. An American policy concerning the refugee has therefore to include an education of the refugee in these matters, and also has to exert influence on employers who exploit the newcomer, which already has been done by refugee committees and some labor unions. Refugee committees also function as clearing houses between the American employer and the refugee.
Of late many artisans trained in skills formerly known only in Europe, have come here. “Send us more skilled leather workers,” writes an employer to the committee. Before the arrival of refugees from Vienna, fine leathers had to be imported. Glass workers from Czechoslovakia, workers employed in Germany’s optical industry, are also in demand. The employment agencies of the refugee committees help the American employer secure their services.
Refugee employment agencies place as many refugees as possible in vocations where a scarcity of labor exists. The largest number of women are placed in domestic positions, as governesses, and so on. Expert dress designers or good copyists are easily placed. So are trained automobile mechanics, textile dyers, watchmakers, and other specialists.
Manufacturers and Professional Men
NO COMPETITION IN THE LABOR MARKET EXISTS WHEN refugees open their own enterprises. Goods formerly imported from Europe are now produced in this country—rubber products, fine glass and leather products, toys, and candy. Some firms formerly exporting from Europe to South America have been transplanted to the United States. The Marum Knitting Mills in Lawrence, Mass., introduced a new process and trained American workers in it. A Czech-American firm owning a European patent is expected to pay $300,000 to $400,000 in wages annually. A Hungarian started to plant paprika in the South. The total income of all these enterprises reaches into millions. Most of the large businesses are financed either by refugee capital (some earlier refugees brought big sums) or private American capital. The large refugee committees encourage small enterprises. Loans are given to establish a business when it is thought it will make the owner self-supporting.
The three large denominational committees for refugees are assisted by a number of non-sectarian committees for members of such professions which have a particular contribution to make. The Committee for Refugee Physicians helps foreign doctors prepare for state examinations and also concerns itself with the legal status of foreign physicians, who are required to pass rigid examinations. Only four states, all in the Northeast, are open to refugee doctors. Other regions, particularly in the rural South and Southwest, are without adequate medical care. Refugee doctors are not allowed to practice in these areas. They cannot wait the five years until they become citizens because they lack money. Besides, a waiting period would mean an unnecessary loss in skill and practice. Efforts to remedy this situation should be continued, particularly now when the defense program increases the need for medical help. Doctors engaged in important research are helped to continue by the committee.
Other specialized committees serve exiled ministers and rabbis. There is a committee for European musicians. The large American learned societies, such as the American Psychological Association and the American Philosophical Association, have formed their own committees to deal with the exiled European scholar. Some scientists have been placed in American colleges and universities. Other refugee scientists have been placed in research foundations, enabling them to continue valuable research. In some instances European scientific institutions have been transplanted to this country. The success of the so-called University in Exile at the New School for Social Research, and the Bauhaus, formerly Europe’s most modern school of architecture and city planning, now at Harvard, justify their establishment. In spite of all efforts, many refugee scientists in this country have been forced to change their vocation. From the standpoint of a national policy on the refugee, this is unfortunate. The refugee scientists, artists, or technical experts remaining in their professions are a distinct asset to their adopted country. As elevator men, chauffeurs, or mechanics, they not only lose their usefulness, but become real competitors.
Employment services can usually find jobs for only those refugees whose knowledge and training can be used in this country. Business men, shopkeepers, salesmen, jurists, and small manufacturers are difficult to place. To save them from permanent unemployment or competing in the already overcrowded field of unskilled labor, a special retraining program was introduced by the National Refugee Service. It aims to prepare refugees for vocations where labor is scarce and where at least part of their former training can be utilized. Persons formerly interested in the arts may become good milliners; former lawyers, experts in traffic management, which involves many questions of a semi-legal character. Dentists may become dental mechanics; white collar workers can be trained as power machine operators manufacturing suits and uniforms. Here competition is limited and training schools are able to place their pupils immediately. The coming mass fabrication of uniforms may bring an actual shortage of trained labor. A small, selected number of young refugees are trained, together with American youth, in construction jobs and in the special mechanical skills needed for the defense program. Retraining saves money. Unemployed refugees or those in overcrowded occupations can become trained specialists who are needed.
First Steps in Americanization
ECONOMIC REHABILITATION COMES FIRST, AMERICANIZATION, the absorption of the refugee by the American community, follows. Economic security is a prerequisite for successful Americanization. Mr. Braun from Vienna lives with his wife and two children on a relief allowance of $13 a week and does not know when he will find a job. It is unlikely that he will be much interested in American manners and contacts with Americans. Mr. Kapzeck, with a small but regular salary as a book accountant, is eager to meet his American colleagues. He can afford to invite them to his home or go out with them.
Americanization begins when the refugees learn to speak English. About one half of all refugees studied English in German high schools or took lessons before they emigrated. They knew English grammar and had a reading knowledge of the language. In this country the refugees find innumerable opportunities to learn English and citizenship. Classes are conducted by the WPA, the public school systems, by refugee committees, churches, synagogues, by the Adult Education Council, and by the Y’s in New York City. The teacher, whether a professional or a volunteer, discusses American history and geography, the American form of government, as well as American customs, manners, and current events.
Americanization is promoted further by providing for social contacts with Americans. Special events and entertainments for refugees combine social and educational functions. In New York City the educated refugee can go to the Ethical Culture Society and hear lectures by American teachers and administrators on “Life in the South” or “City Planning.” He can go to the Walden School and sing American folk songs under the direction of a college student from Bennington, Vt. The young newcomer is cordially invited to dances at the YWCA or university fraternities. Prominent private citizens have invited refugees to their homes to the mutual benefit of the new and the old American.
Resettlement in the Hinterland
BEST WAY TO ACHIEVE A QUICK ADJUSTMENT IS TO PLACE the refugee in an American environment. In Scattergood Hostel, Iowa, and Quaker Hill, Indiana, several score refugees may spend their first months in America as guests of the Quakers. In a lovely rural environment the refugees are taught English and American history, home management and handicraft. Together with their hosts they take care of the house and the farm. Thoroughly acquainted with their new surroundings, they finally are placed or assisted in their search for jobs in the neighboring states.
The resettlement of the refugee is the best solution of problem from an American as well as from the refugee standpoint. The single refugee in X-borough, South Carolina, or Y-town, Oregon, cannot create a refugee problem; thousands of refugees in New York, Philadelphia, or Chicago, can. In the large metropolitan centers some refugees form an isolated group with an independent community life. As a group they are conspicuous by their foreign manners. In the small towns and villages all the country, they appear as individuals in whose future one is interested. Two or three foreign families in a small town do not create a problem.
An organized attempt to resettle refugees in small communities is therefore undertaken by the National Refugee Service, the Committee for Christian Refugees, and the Committee for Catholic Refugees. An organization has been established, and a propaganda campaign is conducted in New York City. By lectures, pamphlets, films, refugees told about the opportunities available in different parts of the United States, the people who live there, the beauty of the mountains and rivers. Careful interviews follow to determine in which communities a specific family might fit best. Its social and vocational background is taken into consideration.
Outside New York, in cities and towns all over the try, special committees have been founded which pledge their help in resettling the refugee. These committees enjoy the support of Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic congregations, of the YMCA, and of welfare and business men’s associations. Volunteers—in some of the largest cities, paid social workers—supervise the project. Opportunities for employment which does not create competition, for the establishment of small enterprises, are canvassed first. Reports are sent to the New York headquarters. M-town is willing to settle three refugee families a year, N-city will accept 20 units per annum.
Once a refugee has expressed his willingness to go to a certain part of the country, a report about his personality and training is sent to the local community. When the community writes back, “Expect Mr. Refugee and family,” arrangements for the trip are made. The traveling department arranges the details. When they arrive, a representative of the local committee meets them at the bus or railway terminal. In some cases local citizens take the newcomers into their homes. Single men may be invited to live in the YMCA. For others, boarding house accommodations are paid in advance until, with the help of the local committee, the refugee finds a way to support himself. The success of this project speaks for itself: Mr. S. and his wife were among the many refugees stranded in New York. The former lawyer did not find a job. Living on relief, they had neither the wish nor the money to meet Americans. They became desperate and disheartened. Mr. and Mrs. S. are now in a small southwestern town which had never seen a refugee. Europe and European events were remote affairs. Mr. S. has found a job as a worker in a shoe factory, his wife made a profession of a former hobby and gives lessons in designing. He has already lectured in the high school and before the local Chamber of Commerce. Both are frequently entertained. Writes Mr. S. to the Resettlement Division in New York: “First of all I want to thank you so much for all your kindness. You gave us the best advice to go away from New York. Two days after arriving in N., I found a job. Is it not incredible? I am the happiest man in the world.”
There are many similar stories. A musician waited in vain for months, together with hundreds of his American colleagues, to find a position in New York. The large center, he figured, would yield the best chances. Finally he gave up. Willing to accept anything, he went west and became a grocery clerk in a small town. In his leisure hours he played the piano and sang at club events, organized recitals in the school. The local music teacher became interested. Money was raised and now the town has its own music school, the only one in that part of the state. His social and cultural background stands out in the small community, as it never would in New York. A similarly successful attempt has been made in resettling refugees on the soil. A former physician now owns his own farm, a formerly wealthy business woman has established her own dairy route. Several hundred families have been settled on the land.
Resettlement is the ideal solution for the refugee problem. It prevents the accumulation of large refugee communities in a few metropolitan areas. It places the refugees in sections where opportunities are better. Finally, the direct personal contact of Americans and refugees in hundreds of places helps fight fascism. Americans can see what type of people Hitler has expelled. Untrammeled by propaganda and censorship, firsthand information about events in Europe is available. For this reason, if for no other, this project should be expanded.
It may appear that most of the help the refugee receives is the work of large organizations. Actually, these committees do only the most conspicuous work. The larger number of refugees are supported by relatives and friends, or are self-supporting. Jews and Christians alike have opened their homes to newcomers in response to the appeal of rabbis, priests, and ministers.
CONSIDERING THE EMERGENCY NATURE OF THE TASK confronting the committees, miracles have been performed. Nevertheless, mistakes have been made. They had no experience in helping high ranking cultural and vocational groups to establish themselves in a time of chronic depression. To a large extent, the difficult financial situation prevents these committees from retraining all those people who cannot be placed in their former vocations. Not more than a thousand refugees at the most have been retrained; several times as many need such retraining. If more money were available, the number of subsidized enterprises could be enlarged for the benefit of the refugee and the community. Finally, lack. of funds forces these agencies to support unemployed refugees at the lowest possible level. Still worse than the effect of the low standard of living is the necessity of accepting charity, the necessity of discussing all their private affairs with the social worker. Many German husbands never discussed money matters even with their wives. One can understand the mental anguish when the exigencies of their present situation force the former professor, physician, or independent business man to discuss private affairs with a stranger.
Refugee into Citizen
APART FROM ECONOMIC PROBLEMS, THE LARGEST OBSTACLE against an immediate adjustment of the refugee is the refugee himself, or rather human nature. When he arrives, he is still suffering from the effects of flight and persecution. Before he has time to recuperate, the nerve-racking, often futile, hunt for a job begins. He has to take whatever job he can get. The former lawyer may be. come a peddler; the business man of 1933, a packer.
Mr. W., formerly the owner of a machine tool factory, is now a worker in the same industry. Instead of giving orders, he has to take them. Accustomed to doing his own thinking and planning, it is difficult for him to stop this habit immediately. He makes suggestions and expresses opinions about the work, which in turn creates the impression that refugees “are arrogant,” “know everything better,” “don’t mind their own business.” Later on the refugee gets accustomed to the change in his situation. Frustrated in his habit of doing his own planning and thinking, a former engineer, as a steel worker, occupied his leisure hours with inventions, finally successful, and now owns his own factories. A former high judge, now an elevator operator, finds compensation in a well-rounded social life. It is here that the refugee must do his share. The sooner he forgets his former life, the better he can make adjustments. He has to adjust not only to the lower income, to another vocation, but to his changed social status as well. Before the refugees reached America, they had experienced the change from secure, respected positions in their home communities to those of outcasts, third class human beings. They had not only lost their jobs, but had been robbed of their possessions, treated as criminals, humiliated and tortured. Their only hope was emigration. They had anticipated economic hardship, but they had not expected that a loss of social status would be combined with their economic decline. Some refugees find it difficult to understand that their own origin and background no longer count.
In Frankenhausen, Germany, the banker, Dr. Krause, was known as the descendant of an old family which had lived in this community for several centuries. He was respected for his family, his education, and his office. In America Dr. Krause is the refugee X, a mere number. Education and title, appreciated in Germany, no longer matter. Among strangers, the refugee X, is just what he seems to be—a man who works in a garage. So he tries to overcome his feelings, to make friends with his new colleagues. But the differences of interests are great. Though satisfied with his work, he yearns for intellectual conversation—about books, about economics.
Still further difficulties are to be solved. Different from American tradition, public employment ranks above private employment in Europe: the teacher ranks above the business man, manual labor is considered vastly inferior to clerical work. Class differences are generally more conspicuous. Here too, the refugee has to learn, lest he be accused of snobbery or considered ridiculous.
All these difficulties tend to make refugees seek each other’s company. Within refugee circles, the former lawyer or banker still enjoys the old prestige. With countrymen they are still Dr. T. or Banker N. Together they can speak about a cherished past, where they were secure and comfortable. So in the congenial environment of other refugees, independent refugee community life with its own religious and social institutions develops; refugee boarding houses are established and clubs founded.
The formation of an independent refugee community life, though it will retard the Americanization of the refugee, also has its advantages. It makes the adjustment of the refugee more gradual. In the company of his compatriots, the refugee can regain his emotional balance without troubling Americans. Refugee organizations contribute to an initial Americanization by interpreting American life to their members and by discussing the problems common to them all.
Nevertheless, the refugee should be brought into contact with Americans as soon as possible. His emotional security can be regained only when he sees that he is admitted as an equal into American social life. The danger which lies in the formation of a permanent refugee community life can best be prevented by resettlement throughout the country.
Not all refugees face the same problems. Before the last two years there were a few thousand who managed to bring a part of their fortunes with them. Their economic as well as their social adjustments have been easier. Another few thousand have been able to remain in their former vocations, such as professors, artists, musicians, and artisans. They, at least, have been spared the problem of adjustment to a lower standard of living.
Most favorable is the prospect for the children and young adolescents. They have less to forget and learn more quickly. Through their education in American schools and colleges (many scholarships for refugee students have been provided, particularly through the agency of the International Student Service) they grow up with American youth.
A Policy for the Future
AN AMERICAN POLICY CONCERNING THE REFUGEE SHOULD view the problem as a whole, including the young the old, as well as the peddler, the famous scholar knocking on our door. It should see the refugee problem in historic perspective. Not as it looks now, when the majority of the refugees have been in this country only two years, but as it will look a few years from now. With the refugee’s will to adjust, and the full cooperation of the American public, the new immigrant will not be a problem and will soon prove to be an asset to the United States.
Source: Saenger, Gerhart, “The Refugees Here,” Survey Graphic, Vol. 29, No. 11, p. 576 (November 1, 1940), http://newdeal.feri.org/survey/40c21.htm. New Deal Network, http://newdeal.feri.org (May 1, 2014)