The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


EN ROUTE TO PORTLAND, Tuesday—At the luncheon of the Council on Foreign Relations in Chicago yesterday, I was asked a question which I thought had been answered over and over again—namely, "What are the chief objections to our taking in some of the displaced persons in Europe?"

Even if Congress approves an appropriation—which I hope it will very soon—for our share in the International Refugee Organization, we will be able to do only half the job unless we can lead the way in accepting some of these people in our own country and getting them started on new and constructive lives. To do that we not only need the money, but we need a temporary law which would allow the use of immigration quotas which were unfilled during the war years.

By law, we allow 150,000 people to enter this country every year. But only about one-fifth of that number are actually entering because some of the countries with the highest quotas are sending us practically no immigrants today. And during the war, we received very few people because of the dangers of travel and the difficulties of leaving war-torn countries.

If that slight change in our immigration law was made for a period of a few years, we could accept some 400,000 people into this country, under the same careful scrutiny that all immigrants have to undergo for health. It is practically impossible for any immigrant to become a charge on the community today since individuals or organizations have to go bond for them.

* * *

I sometimes wonder how much people really know about the displaced persons. I am frequently asked if all of those waiting to come over here are Jewish. As a matter of fact, probably only about 20 to 25 percent of the people remaining in camps in Europe are Jewish. Having been the ones most cruelly attacked under the Hitler regime, the Jews probably have the least resistance and have been dying in greater numbers than any others. The majority of the people still in camps are Poles, Balts, Ukrainians, a few Yugoslavs, and a scattering of other nationalities. Probably three-fourths of these are Catholic, and one-fourth Protestant.

In the past we have prospered because of the new skills and new blood coming to us from various countries, but if we leave these people in camps much longer, they will deteriorate to a point where they will be of little value to any nation which they may enter. We still, of course, have in our minds the days of the depression and we fear unemployment for our own citizens, but if we read the reports on such refugees as have come to us in the last few years, we will feel reassured, for most of them are not only self-supporting but are employers of others.

* * *

While I was in Chicago, two people asked me how they could apply for work on international affairs—which I suppose means work with the United Nations. I have to point out that very few Americans can continue to get appointments in the U. N. since there must be an equitable distribution among all the nations of the positions available in the Secretariat. But anyone wanting to try should write to the Director of Personnel, The United Nations, Lake Success, New York.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Portland (Or., United States) [ index ]
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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, March 5, 1947

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.