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Ickes Renews Plea for Virgin Islands Refugee Haven

December 11, 1940
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Secretary of Interior Harold L. Ickes renewed his poles for opening of Alaska and the Virgin Islands as refugee havens, speaking last night at a dinner for aid to anti-Fascist refugees in Europe sponsored by The Nation and The New Republic at the Hotel Commodore.

There are “thousands of men and women of intellectual achievement and democratic thought who are now in danger of the firing squad,” Ickes said. “It is a simple matter to bring these men and women across the ocean to the various countries of the Western Hemisphere. It involves no more than a little money, visitors’ permits and a helpful attitude on the part of the government.

“My own department is doing what lies within its power to open the way. We are urging that, under the proper safeguards, the Virgin Islands be made available to political refugees, without visas, without diplomatic formality. We are urging the hospitable reception of all for whom there may be room and that they be allowed to stay in the Virgin Islands as visitors until they are otherwise provided for.

“This would involve no competition either with American labor or business. Instead of a burden upon the economy of these islands, an economic benefit would flow from these visitors, who would have a guaranteed income to provide for their wants. And even before the refugee pressure for a haven in this free land of ours become as severe as it is, my department had proposed legislation which would provide for a further colonization of Alaska, whose economy would also thereby be greatly improved.

“Here are two small corners of the Western Hemishere in which American freedom would mean life and liberty to fellow human beings as well as economic improvement for ourselves.”

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