My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Friday—I wonder how many people read a little item in the paper the other day stating that on Ellis Island there had been detained 87 people who were thought to have tuberculosis and who came from displaced persons' camps in Europe. Knowing what rigid health examinations have to be passed over there, I was surprised to read this. However, I was relieved to read further that efforts were being made to have these people released on parole on condition that they would receive treatment in this country.

Today I find in my mail a letter which is a sad human document. It is dated Ellis Island, June 30, and says:

"The day has come we had waited, suffered and prayed for. We the undersigned 87 persons arrived on May 2nd, May 17th, May 23rd, May 29th and June 1st. We have obtained our visas legally as Displaced Persons, but a medical officer of the U.S. Emigration authorities made us interned under the suspicion suffering from active pulmonary tuberculosis. We had been sent to Ellis Island where we have been kept since. This practice has never been applied for the more than 250,000 D.P. Emigrants who arrived before us, and nobody has been separated with us out of the people who arrived after us.

"We passed the severe U.S. medical control in Europe but this is not being considered here to be correct. On the basis of one simple X-ray picture taken here, we have been classified as Class A (unfit). Most of us have never been sick and have worked while in Europe. Others' sickness has been repaired by operation.

"In spite of the fact that none of us is suffering from open tuberculosis we are not allowed to eat and live with the others together. There are among us pregnant women, old mothers whose only wish being to join their families. Our children are without proper care...Imagine the moral effect of the information passed by our sponsors or welfare organizations saying that the sponsoree has been kept on Ellis Island under the suspicion of suffering from tuberculosis. Rumors have already reached us that we are considered by outside people to be heavily sick. Thus in case we will be discharged we should start our new life with an abandoned reputation. We wish all to be re-examined and reclassified into the old class which was found to be correct for us by the U.S. Medical Authorities in Europe.

"We are all without a home and wanted to find a rest hoped for, after having wandered through different camps during the past 12 years...Give us back our freedom and we would like to start a new life in the country chosen by us."

Then followed the signatures. I can only say that I hope those who are making the effort to get these people paroled and accepted for treatment after reexamination will be successful.

It is true that they may be a burden for a time at least on the community, but if we stop to think what they have been through for 12 years and what their hopes have been when they found themselves able to come to this country, it seems almost too hard to envision not having those hopes realized.

E. R.

(WORLD COPYRIGHT, 1951, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC. REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR IN PART PROHIBITED.)


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, July 7, 1951

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.
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