Wednesday, February 21, 2007

'Not all immigrants are to be feared'

Joseph Berger of NYTimes reports on an interesting 50-th anniversary reunion of Hungarians who fled to the US in 1956-57:

... [F]or eight weeks in the winter of 1956-57, roughly 300 Hungarians fleeing the Soviet tanks that crushed their startling revolt found a life raft in a small college 90 miles north of New York City.


Those eight weeks at Bard College so many years ago generated dividends that the United States is still collecting. Out of that passel of adrift newcomers emerged doctors, engineers, and scientists, including two leaders in the treatment of eye disease, Laszlo Bito and Frank Holly; a third, Sandor Holly, who developed an early laser; and a fourth, Charles Legendy, whose theories contributed to plasma generation used in making computer chips.


At a time when too many immigrant scholars are greeted with suspicion and often discouraged, the former refugees found it worth remembering that opening America’s unmatched university classrooms harnesses the zeal and quicksilver intelligence of the world’s best minds, and that a proper balance with security must be struck. “One reason we organized this is to show that not all immigrants are a burden to the United States and not all immigrants are to be feared,” said Mr. Bito.