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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

Don't SHAME Your Immigrant Ancestors for This

Millions of immigrants have come to the United States throughout history in search of a better life. Many immigrants faced significant challenges upon arrival, including language barriers, discrimination, and economic hardship. As such, they may have taken handouts and we should not shame them for so doing.

Immigrant Aid Societies Helped our Ancestors

Welfare, as we think of it today, didn’t exist for our ancestors. But other assistance was available.

Immigrant aid societies and charitable organizations, including the YMCA, YWCA, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and Salvation Army, had representatives on Ellis Island. They helped new arrivals with funds, employment, living arrangements, transportation, education, etc.

Such groups continued the assistance from offices in cities across the country.

The Legal Aid Society, for example, began in 1876 in New York City as Der Deutscher Rechts-Schutz Verein (The German Legal Aid Society) to represent Germans against their employers’ corrupt labor practices.

The Order Sons of Italy in America established orphanages and offered scholarships and death benefits.

Other Programs Benefited Immigrants

During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration provided jobs to millions of Americans, including immigrants, and helped to build infrastructure and public works projects that benefited the entire country.

It's also worth noting that many immigrants worked in low-paying and often dangerous jobs, such as factory work and mining. These workers often organized themselves into unions to demand better wages and working conditions.

Stop Spreading This Immigrant Myth

In conclusion, the myth that "my immigrant ancestor didn't take handouts" is just that: a myth. Throughout history, immigrants have relied on community resources to help them build new lives in America.

By recognizing how assistance programs supported immigrants, we appreciate the reality of our ancestors' lives when they came to this new world. Then, we can tell a more accurate family story.

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