In 1947, Eleanor Roosevent asked Harry Truman to look into the situation of Jewish stowaways who were stuck on Ellis Island, unable to enter the US.
Here is their correspondence.
January 7, 1947Dear Mr. President:
I have enclosed an appeal I recently received from a group of interned illegal Jewish homeless immigrants on Ellis Island and wonder if anything can be done to prevent their deportation?
With every good wish, I am,
Yours very sincerely,
January 16, 1947
My dear Mrs. Roosevelt:
This is in reply to your letter of January seventh in which you enclosed a letter of appeal sent to you by a group of Jewish stowaways who are now detained on Ellis Island.
I have taken this matter up with the Attorney General and he has carefully gone into the problem with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. These boys are a part of a large group of stowaways who
arrived in this country during 1946. Under the immigration law, of course, they are required to be returned, at the expense of the steamship company, to the ports of their embarkation.
The Attorney General advised me that because of the increase in the number of stowaways since the end of the war he initiated a survey to ascertain if there was any basis for relief. I am also advised that a Special Committee of the 79th Congress appointed from the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization conducted an investigation of this situation at the Port of New York where the problem is most acute, and thereafter submitted a bill to the Committee for strengthening the existing immigration law pertaining to the exclusion of stowaways. In view of this it is the Attorney General's opinion that since lawful immigration is so urgently needed by so many displaced persons, the greatest good for the greatest number can only be accommodated by lending all the facilities of our Government to lawful immigration and following a policy of strict exclusion of the illegal or stowaway immigrants.
As you know, in my recent message to the Congress I emphasized the duty of the United States to accept its portion of the world’s burden as to displaced persons and urged the Congress to consider appropriate legislation to enable a greater number of displaced persons to lawfully immigrate to the United States. I believe such a measure is of paramount importance and, as much as I am sympathetic with the plight of these particular stowaways, I am, nevertheless, of the opinion that their individual cases must give way to the larger problem of the many thousands of homeless people in Europe who seek to come to the United States as legal immigrants.
I am always grateful to you for your vigilant interest in matters of this kind. I am returning herewith the enclosure with your letter.
Very sincerely yours,
January 20, 1947Dear Mr. President:
I appreciate your answering my letter about the Jewish stowaways and I can fully understand the situation.
With many thanks and best wishes,