The Refugee Intellectual: The Americanization of the Immigrants of 1933-1951

The Refugee Intellectual: The Americanization of the Immigrants of 1933-1951

The Refugee Intellectual: The Americanization of the Immigrants of 1933-1951

The Refugee Intellectual: The Americanization of the Immigrants of 1933-1951

Excerpt

According to American tradition, the story of the immigrant has a happy ending. The poor immigrant boy rises to fame and fortune, or at least he and his descendants climb steadily up the social and economic ladder. Actually, however, we know surprisingly little about what really happens to the immigrant after arrival. The circumstances of departure from the homeland and the difficulties of passage are well documented, but the story stops with the migrant on the threshold of the New World, the actual migration behind him but his great adventure still ahead. And there are only a few hints of how the story ends. The newcomers disappear into the cities or disperse to the interior, and there is only scanty information about what happens to them thereafter. In confirmation of the accepted tradition there is little more than the occasional success story of a Michael Pupin or a Carl Schurz, as remarkable as any Horatio Alger story -- and probably about as typical of individual experiences.

Despite the accepted tradition, there is reasonable suspicion that along with the known successes are many unknown failures in migration. But we do not know the ratio of success to failure, or the personal costs at which some measure of success is purchased. Without sure knowledge of the facts, there is also reasonable suspicion that international migration involves wastage, and perhaps considerable wastage, of human abilities. In particular we may wonder how well the tradition of successful migration applies to those possessing special abilities, and how fully these abilities are . . .

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