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Bring them into the “community sings," side by side with you, and make them warmly welcome until they feel that the community things belong to them, too. Bring them in on your music, your orchestras, bands, art exhibits. You will find many a man and woman holding humble positions in American industry, in whom lives the old-world suceptibility to line and color and note.
I saw a group of foreign-born women, old, stout, apathetic, brought together after many years in America in their very first party of any kind here. Somebody skillfully lured them into a dance they had known in the old country. Could you have seen the stiff, toil-thickened bodies break into old motions, the breaking of old joys over faces grown immobile, you would have seen a new meaning in the thing you call “ Americanization." :
A public recreation hall in a community is a prime necessity. Public meetings, lectures, amateur theatricals, dancing, public celebrations, sporting activities, etc., may be held and centered there. It is the neutral place, where all community members, natives, and immigrants of various races, religions, and tongues meet each other, learn to know each other, and influence each other, where the much-needed social visiting among the natives and immigrants may take its inception.”
I am not urging the absurdity that men can be transformed into Americans by a course in school. This is but a beginning. Knowledge of our language is but a tool.
Our strange and successful experiment in the art of making a new people is the result of contact, not of caste, of living together, working together for a living, each one interpreting for himself and for his neighbors his conception of what kind of social being man should be, what lis sympathies, standards, and ambitions should be.
Now, this can not be taught out of a book. It is a matter of touch, of feeling, like the growth of friendship. Each man is approachable in a different way, appealed to by very contradictory things. One man reaches America through a baseball game, another through a church, a saloon, a political meeting, a woman, a labor union, a picture gallery, or something new to eat. The difficulty is in finding the meeting place where there is no fear, no favor, no ulterior motives, and above all, no soul-insulting patronage of poor by rich, of black by white, of younger by elder, or foreign born by native born, of the unco' bad by the unco' good. To meet this need the schoolhouse has been turned into a community center. It is a common property, or should be. All feel entitled to its use.3
What an opportunity for the school of the community, the school conducted by native-born citizens of native and of foreign parentage. The school has a vital hold upon the most influential member of the family—the child; it reaches into practically every home in the community; it represents an institution upon which the foreigner looks with the greatest respect. The most suitable point of contact, the vital approach, is at hand—the children of the family. Through its opportunities for the organization of mothers' clubs and parents' associations, through the activity of home visitor and home teacher, through its close relationship with boards of health and all other public
1 Esther Everett Lape.
Franklin K, Lane,
agencies, through its contact with the most influential citizens in the neighbor. hood, the school possesses the power to form a powerful functioning conmunity organization. With the school as a center, with the public school, the day school, the school of the children as a starting point, a social organization can be built up. an organization embracing foreign and native-born citizens, English speaking and non-English speaking, educated and illiterate. The schools of the community can unite in such a movement, federate their parents' and teachers' organizations, affiliate with other social agencies in the district, and thus gather about them the entire community. The school building will become the meeting place, the public forum, the social center, the evening school, the recreation house, the civic center; it can become the neighborhood house, where contacts are made, where newcomers are welcomed, where troubles are told, and where organized action is taken for neighborhood improvement. Here formal and informal education can take place. Here the one group can gain from the other groups and in turn can contribute the best which it possesses."
A number of books have been prepared dealing with the schoolhouse as a community center, and committees are urged to make a special study of the possibilities of this phase of the work. Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 11 of 1918, "A Community Center, What it is and How to Organize it," by Dr. Henry E. Jackson, will be very helpful. “Community Center Activities," written by Clarence Arthur Perry and published by the department of recreation of the Russell Sage Foundation, is also valuable.
The protection of our immigrants from imposition and exploitation has been placed by law under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Immigration, Department of Labor, and in this work local committees may receive much assistance from the Commissioner of Immigration and his deputies.
The foreign born are peculiarly at the mercy of the unscrupulous of all races. The many schemes that have been devised to take his money away from the immigrant could scarcely be enumerated. Grafters in the guise of Government officials have met him at the Very gate of the steamship wharf and assessed him with fictitious fees. The lack driver has driven him around a block or two to his destination a few doors from where he started and charged him five prices. Employment agents, land swindlers, rooming-house bureaus—the immigrant has been the prey of the unprincipled of them all.
After a few experiences with these “apaches” of America, it is small wonder that many of the immigrants have become bitter toward the whole land. An embittered immigrant is not good timber for citizenship. Community committees, therefore, may well
1 Nathan Peyser, in Conference Proceedings.
give a large portion of their time and energy to protecting the newcomer from imposition and to helping him to recover from those who have defranded him. The best way of doing this is through a legal-aid society.
The foreign born does not know what his rights are, nor how to get them. In every city there should be a place, well advertised in foreign sections and in industries, where complaints may be lodged and where persons unable to pay anything can get free advice, and those who can pay can be referred to capable lawyers making reasonable charges. The principle of the legal-aid bureaus in a few cities is capable of great extension.1
Bring some of your public-spirited judges and lawyers together and get them to see the need of lending these newcomers a helping hand. Gather a few cases of local injustice-unfortunately, they are to be found everywhere—and lay them before the members of the bar. If possible, employ some young man who is a graduate from a high-grade law school, and who has the soul and enthusia-m, to act as attorney for the organization. The legal-aid society must have the cordial support of the bar behind it, as the society is purely the representative of the bar in extending legal assistance.
Where a legal-aid society can not be formed, a group of citizens can still do effective work in eliminating imposition.
The foreign born, in a new environment, is the victim of all sinister forres that try to exploit him. A body of men who sympathize with him should sit down with the foreign born, talk over his difficulties, give him advice, and guide him in the course he should pursue. This would result in two things--the foreign born would become more contient because he has a friend to whom he can turn, and the exploiters would soon go to hiding.?
Every city needs a well-organized and really official information service where non-English speaking men and women can find out about jobs, licenses for perldling and for news stands, factory and fire laws, naturalization, the location of the county clerk's office, clinics, doctors, legal aid, compulsory school laws, child-labor laws, and workmen's compensation.'
Such a bureau can perform Americanization service of the greatest importance. The immigrant, ignorant of our customs, is sadly handicapped in his efforts to secure justice. The very interpreters through whom he must make his plea are often in leagne against him.
Most of the protections needed for immigrants are vouchsafed hy existing laws to be found in our case and statute books. But law in books is one thing and law in action, unfortunately, is quite another. This is only saying what we all know, that laws are not self-enforcing. A law affords real protection only when it is given life through enforcement.
Therefore, the prevention through law of exploitation requires as its third and most essential element an administration of justice, accessible to all, workable by all, equipped with proper administrative machinery for the prompt and full enforcement of the laws.
1 Esther Everett Lape.
To-day, under existing conditions, delay, inability to pay costs, and inability to engage counsel are causing gross denial of justice to immigrants in all parts of the country. This means for them bitter disillusionment. It brings them to the conviction that there is no law for them; that America has only laws that punish and never laws that help. From this it is only a short step to open opposition to all law. Wherever we deny justice to an immigrant, we prepare a fertile field in which the seeds of anarchy, sedition, and disorder quickly take root.
The immigrant judges American institutions more by the courts than by anything else. When he is brought into the criminal court for selling without a license, or when he comes into the civil court to collect the wages due him, our American institutions themselves are on trial. According to the treatment he receives so will he judge us and our institutions.
Education, social service, community work are all splendid. They can carry the immigrant a long distance, but not the final distance. The last part of the road can be covered only by experience. You can labor unceasingly to teach the immigrant respect for our institutions, but your entire effort will amount to nothing if the immigrant, when he comes into personal contact with our institutions, finds that they do not deserve respect.
When we can secure in every city a modern municipal court, with its domestic relations session, its small claims and conciliation session, possessed of that indispensable administrative arm called the probation staff, working harmoniousiy in definite alliance with immigration commission, industrial commission, public defender, and legal aid organization, we shall have established a complete ring of protection.
Then, and not until then, can we end exploitation.'
The courts ought to be, and often are, a potent force in Americanization. But often, sometimes without the judge's even suspecting it, the foreign born leaves court with a burning sense of injustice that long defers Americanization. Take a single example: The workman who can not collect his wages and must lose a day's work each time he goes to court, only to have the clever lawyer for the contractor get the case adjourned. Are they equal? The conciliation courts, first tried in Cleveland, for the informal settlement of claims for not over $30 are a simple and practicable way of ending delays in these small wage cases that mean everything to a workman who needs each week's wages to pay for the next week's food and rent, and for milk and medicine for the baby.
The need is that some group of Americans in your village shall be interested in seeing to it that American law is quite as majestic and quite as equitable a thing in the open stretches as it is in the lofty city courts; that good and fair interpreters are provided ; that the alien knows his rights under the law; that all the usual guarantees are provided, and that the offender sees the penalty inflicted as the just result of the operation of American law and not as a personal conspiracy between perhaps a clerk of the company, an offended saloonkeeper (from whom perhaps he did not buy the wine for the christening), and an officer of the law whose ear the interpreter and the complainant can get while the alien can not.
In the village, even more than in the town and city, your foreign born need the community's aid in their struggle toward American citizenship. If the right American in the village does not show interest, the wrong one often does.'
1 Reginald Heber Smith, in Conference Proceedings.
: Half the judges are compelled to designate shysters around the Tombs to represent people who have no attorney, because there is no one else to designate. It seems to me that is one of the prolific sources of abuse. These shysters get a hold upon the court and upon the people coming into the courts, because the judges have to recognize them. It seems to me this great body can go back to their respective communities and provide some one who is decent, straightforward, on the level, to be assigned to this work, and the judges will meet us more than halfway.'
The foreign born are to-day the prey as never before of the medical “ quacks" of the country. As the American newspapers and magazines have been casting out these frauds more and more, they have devoted their efforts to the foreign born.
In one year, recently, the County Medical Association of New York prosecuted complaints against 196“ specialists " or institutes offering treatment for all ills under the sun, from “frost-bitten lungs" to cancer, including, of course, renereal diseases. The social results of such mistreatment stagger the imagination. It would be interesting to know how many dependent and delinquent aliens ” have become public charges by depending for the saving of their health upon this kind of "American" institution. Ninety-eight per cent of the victims were then reported to be, and always are, foreign born.
One of the “specialists" prosecuted in New York employed no fewer than five persons of different nationalities to distribute foreign-language circulars among their countrymen in that city. Some of the advertising men are employed upon a commission basis. Most of the concerns keep within the law by hiring some worn-out and discredited M. D. actually to take the money from the patient.
Part of this problem is obviously for the district attorney and the county medical association. Where does the layman come in? In getting the facts and reporting them, and in giving public support when prosecutions are made,
A word of warning against the quality of paternalism creeping into this as well as all other Americanization work, is given by Mr. Smith:
To employ the law and the administration of justice for the elimination of exploitation is the only sure way, and, further, it is the only democratic method. It is the American way.
Other plans which have been attempted or suggested run too far in the direction of paternalism. They attempt to put the immigrant under tutelage, and they endanger the whole program of Americanization, for they are unAmerican in conception and execution. We can not supervise the immigrant in his every act; we can not have a policeman at his elboy every minute, we can not make his decisions for him, in order to prevent a possible misstep; we can not deprive him of liberty of motion, of thought, of speech, and of action. In a word, we must not attempt to play the rôle of the benevolent despot.
THRIFT. Closely connected with the removal of imposition and exploitation is the matter of the encouragement of thrift. The foreign born
1 B. G. Lewis, in Conference Proceedings.