The NCWC’s Fight for Just Migration in WWII

Authored by Maeve Dwyer

National Catholic Welfare Conference Bureau of Immigration Annual Report (1940-1941), from the Center for Migration Studies National Catholic Welfare Conference Collection

In 1920 the National Catholic Welfare Conference, previously the National Catholic Welfare Council, created a Bureau of Immigration to aid immigrants entering the United States. [1] The NCWC Annual Report (July 1, 1940- June 30, 1941) describes the efforts of the NCWC in assisting migrants who sought refuge in the United States during a time of increasing turbulence and uncertainty. Specifically, within the context of this annual report, the violence of World War II[2] was spreading throughout Europe. The NCWC took great pains to relieve the displaced, and those fleeing Nazi holdings or Axis power territories.

The work of the NCWC was both global and internal in nature. Decades previous to the start of World War II ushered in greater restrictions on immigration in the United States, as well as a heavy climate of xenophobia and prejudice against foreigners.[3] In the face of such challenges, the men and women of the NCWC offered concern and counsel, speaking as a voice for the voiceless both inside and outside of the United States’ borders.

The NCWC Annual Report (July 1, 1940- June 30, 1941) describes the increasing volume of challenges that the NCWC faced as the war in Europe escalated. The spread of Nazi control led to fear mongering and amassed refugees. Borders between countries were closed and travel was restricted for both citizens and noncitizens of Axis power nations. Migrants that wished to evacuate their European homes, were met with unexpected regulation changes and unobtainable exit permits.[4]

On the other side, in the United States, investigations into the eligibility of immigrants became a larger concern, specifically for German, Italian, and Jewish migrants.[5] The approval of immigrant entry was based upon autocratic characteristics that subsisted of “good character and political views.” [6] The NCWC took on a role of mediator and counselor between immigrants and the United States government. The NCWC activities and services included “hardship cases,” in which the NCWC helped families and individuals obtain visas and legal permanent residences; catholic families were safeguarded against separation. The National Catholic Welfare Conference followed the Vincentian tradition by exercising respect and compassion on the behalf of those individuals caught in the tumult of history. [7]

Footnotes

[1] “National Catholic Welfare Council”. Wikipedia. Accessed March 12, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Catholic_Welfare_Council

 

[2] “World War II in Europe: Timeline with Photos and Text” The History Place. Accessed March 12, 2017, from http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/ww2time.htm

 

[3] Dinnerstein, Leonard, and David M. Reimers. 2009. Ethnic Americans : A History of Immigration. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed March 12, 2017).

 

[4] Bureau of Immigration. “National Catholic Welfare Conference Annual Report,” July 1, 1940-June 30, 1941. Box 147 Folder 4620. Center for Migration Studies.

 

[5] Dinnerstein, Leonard, and David M. Reimers. 2009. Ethnic Americans : A History of Immigration. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed March 12, 2017).

 

[6] Bureau of Immigration. “National Catholic Welfare Conference Annual Report,” July 1, 1940-June 30, 1941. Box 147 Folder 4620. Center for Migration Studies.

 

[7] “Our Mission.” St. Johns University. Accessed March 12, 2017, from

http://www.stjohns.edu/about/our-mission.

Bibliography

“About”.  The Center for Migration Studies of New York. Accessed March 12, 2017, from http://cmsny.org/about/

Bureau of Immigration. “National Catholic Welfare Conference Annual Report,” July 1, 1940-June 30, 1941. Box 147 Folder 4620. Center for Migration Studies.

Dinnerstein, Leonard, and David M. Reimers. 2009. Ethnic Americans : A History of Immigration. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed March 12, 2017).

Hammond, Dylan, and Maeve Dwyer. “Center for Migration Studies National Catholic Welfare Conference Collection CMS 023B Finding Aid,” 2016.

“Our Mission.” St. Johns University. Accessed March 12, 2017, from

http://www.stjohns.edu/about/our-mission.

“World War II in Europe: Timeline with Photos and Text” The History Place. Accessed March 12, 2017, from http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/ww2time.htm

“National Catholic Welfare Council”. Wikipedia. Accessed March 12, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Catholic_Welfare_Council

 

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