Minutes of the National Catholic Resettlement Council meeting in Buffalo, New York, July 14, 1948

DP Family with a Baby Carriage at Ellis Island

DP family with baby carriage at Ellis Island

This document records the proceedings at a meeting of the National Catholic Resettlement Council. At this particular meeting, a large contingent of representatives from other organizations were also in attendance. These included representatives from ethnic or national organizations in America, such as Polish-American societies, as well as from fellow American Catholic charities, which each had reasons for being interested in refugee aid. Although many of the ethnic organizations mentioned on the roster were not specifically Catholic, their membership included a large number of Catholics, and they knew that joining forces with a government-recognized group such as the Resettlement Council would be the quickest way to help their countrymen. The principal speakers at the meeting, however, were US bishops. In view of the newly-passed Displaced Persons law of 1948, the National Catholic Resettlement Council was trying to gather its resources and coordinate its personnel for the coming massive effort of resettlement. One interesting point we see is the criteria that refugees must have a home and a job lined up for them before they can enter the United States, because, as the document frequently emphasizes, refugees should not become a public burden.

Minutes of the National Catholic Resettlement Council Meeting, July 14, 1948

Minutes of the National Catholic Resettlement Council Meeting

The document also mostly speaks of Displaced Persons (DPs) in terms of families rather than individuals, since many of the DPs admitted to the United States came in family groups. DP families (as they were called) seemed more likely to be successful in their new homes than individuals, as they would probably have greater stability and a ready-made network of support, although the document expresses no explicit preference against individual DPs. The family also came into play in the resettlement process when DPs were offered homes and jobs by relatives who had already immigrated to the United States and become settled before the war.

 

Questions:

  • How does the document describe the DPs’ “spirit” to make them sound more accessible and sympathetic to Americans?  What elements in many American citizens’ own past and ancestry might make them sympathetic to the DPs’ situation?

  • Which does the document see as the most challenging part of the resettlement process, the paperwork and bureaucracy involved with immigration itself, or more long-term questions of assimilation and readjustment?

  • To what or whom does Bishop O’Hara of Buffalo compare the DPs? Does his statement echo the writing and moral lessons of any other writer you know?

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