The Refugee question – the Immigrant question; an issue as old as the country itself. In 1953 it was about the Red Scare; Eastern Europe was slowly falling under the influence of Moscow and people were fleeing to America, where they heard there were open arms and opportunities. The world was still in the midst of rebuilding shattered cities left from the War – the world was terrified that another one could happen any day – the Korean War was heading for an Armistice later on this month – Vietnam was still French Indochina (for now) and the African continent was undergoing growing pains as colonial ties were being broken and independence was exhibiting its own sets of problems.
And so the issue of whether or not the U.S. could (or would) allow some 240,000 immigrants into the country was the stuff of debate, in this episode of American Forum Of The Air. The immigrants in question were all to come from the Iron Curtain countries of Eastern Europe. The 240,000 figure was above the then-current allotment of immigrants coming into the U.S.
As was prefaced in this program, few topics have more human appeal than the issue of immigration; as much now as it was then – in the 1950s the fear was the onslaught of immigrants coming over from Eastern Europe would have mass numbers of Communist agents in their numbers. The debate was sharp and sharply divided. Featured in the discussion were; Sen. Leverett Saltonstall (R-Mass), Rep. Francis E. Walter (D-Penn.), who was co-sponsor of the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act of 1952. Like most legislation regarding immigration around this time – it was keen to prevent any subversive elements from gaining citizenship in the U.S. – and much like the 1950s, a number of people were prevented from entering the country who had very little to do with subversive activity, but were regarded as “sympathetic”.
So to get an idea of what the Immigration issued was like in 1953, here is that episode of American Forum Of The Air, broadcast on July 12, 1953.