My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK, Thursday—I wonder how many people know about the American Federation of International Institutes, Inc., which is a national association of local institutes, councils, centers and leagues designed to integrate into our communities the immigrants who come to our shores. These new Americans pay token dues of $1 to $3 a year, and the institute helps to teach them about American ways which, to foreigners, may be very confusing. The immigrants are helped and guided into taking part in American community life.

The institute aids the newcomers to become naturalized citizens and useful members of the community, teaches them English, gives them basic information on our work-a-day rules and laws, aids them in getting jobs and in finding places to live, supplies free interpreters and translators and teaches them to champion America's free economy and to fight communism.

This is a work that needs to be done, and it is of great help to the refugees coming to our country. The New York office has a staff which is in itself a little like the United Nations because a knowledge of so many languages is necessary. This staff meets incoming steamers. It has already made previous connections with many of the people coming over, and perhaps arrangements may have been made for jobs for the transportation to ultimate destinations around the country.

Many Americans are not aware that work of this kind is going on here and that it is filling a need for the many people who come to us from foreign shores and who must as soon as possible become citizens.

* * *

I found in Washington a concern about our sudden change in trade policies. In congress pressure has evidently been brought by certain American interests to put up barriers restricting trade on the basis of protecting certain American industries. Of course, in the long run, this will hurt our overall economy, but from the shortsighted point of view it appeals to certain interests to have what they call "protection from competition."

As we have helped foreign countries to build up their economies, naturally we face greater competition. Nevertheless, when the Reciprocal Trade Agreement Act of 1951 came up for renewal, it was considerably watered down as a result of the pressure of special interests.

For instance, a proviso, which led to an embargo on butter, fats and oils, and severe restrictions on the importation of cheese, was worked in to the Defense Production Act. This curb was inconsistent with our trade agreement obligations and imposed great hardship on the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark and France, which must sell us goods in order to earn the dollars with which to buy American goods.

In many lines of products this type of thing is going on, and if it continues we will weaken the free world instead of strengthening it. What is more, we will encourage many nations to trade with the Soviet Union instead of with us.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL