Thursday, May 29, 2014

July 5, 1939: Point of Information Please!


Mr. Bob Spivack,
International Student Service
8 West 40th Street,
New York City.

Dear Bob:
     Point of information please:

      Why is it advisable to get affidavits for students? Although these affidavits may serve as a protection for them against the police, I should think that the indication that they intend to immigrate permanently would spoil their chances to get a student's visa. I am thinking particularly of the case of Jan Rosenbach. Is there a special kind of affidavit for students? Would not a scholarship providing room and board as well as tuition serve the same purpose.

Sincerely yours,
Charlotte S. Salmon
Placement Worker.
Refugee Service.

This is one of those letters that you want to see the response. Charlotte asks a good question, and her request for information shows you that the organizations are constantly learning and trying to figure out the best way to help refugee. This shows how the decisions made by the American consuls are increasingly tentative and subjective.  

You may remember Jan Rosenbach is the student who is in the running to be accepted to McPherson College. His situation is a little bit unique because he is a political refugee. His father was a prominent pacifist.  He is a little closer to the danger of the Nazis but still has a chance to get out. Bob Spivack at the International Student Service (ISS) alluded to the fact that an affidavit would help protect Jan in the meantime while he waits to leave for the USA. 

Charlotte is trying to make sense out of this - especially for any other students. I think she basically is trying to make sure that getting an affidavit is not the new obstacle required for students to enter the US. We will discuss affidavits more in the future, but for now I'll give you a simple definition of an affidavit in this context. An affidavit is a sworn statement by a person who is both willing and able to be financially responsible for the refugee, so that the refugee will not be a financial burden on the USA. This requirement was an important (and difficult) step in the tedious process of hopeful immigrants to the USA. Charlotte is confused and asking for clarification because an affidavit was usually only required for immigrants seeking permanent relocation to the US.

Charlotte's logic that an affidavit makes the student seem more permanent is pretty sound... the addition of an affidavit to a student's request for a visa might make the American consuls hesitate if they sense that the students have no intention of returning to their country of origin. If the consuls don't think that the students intend to be temporary, they might revoke the student visa (which is temporary) and send the students to the back of the regular (but permanent) visa line. Charlotte understands the protective power that having someone "watching" from the USA might have for a refugee- but she also doesn't want to detract from quickly getting that refugee to safety. 

Ultimately, obtaining affidavits is hard work. It requires a very detailed process of proving financial stability and ability in a time when folks are just starting to come out of the hardships of the depression. I'm sure Charlotte would rather not have to add this to the criteria for students.

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