30 Years
HomeUnited States of America

The 1,000 Asians of undetermined nationality who were selected by the United States in Kampala in the autumn of 1972 under a special pro­gramme have been advancing toward settlement with exceptional speed, thus vindicating the decision of the Administration to admit them as an exceptional measure, in view of the urgency of the situation, on "parole" outside regular immigration procedures. Subsequently a further some 100 Asians entered individually from transit centres in Europe under regular criteria. Helped by the good results achieved with the first arrivals, the negotiations between Secretary of State William Rogers and the High Commissioner led to a new special quota of 500, also on "parole", being announced in April 1973.

The main impetus for settling the Asians who have already been admitted, at the local level - and for supporting within the USA, UNHCR's appeal to the Government to undertake the second special scheme - has come from voluntary agencies many of which are Christian or Jewish in affiliation. The seven participants have been American Fund for Czechoslovak Refugees, International Rescue Committee, Lutheran World Federation, Migration and Refugee Services - United States Catholic Conference, Tolstoy Foundation, United HIAS Service, World Council of Churches. The fact that the vast majority of the Asians-being Hindu or Moslem - are neither, has in no way curbed the enthusiasm with which Churches and Synagogues across the country have responded in arranging accommodation and jobs for the expellees. In one rural congregation of only 200 people, most of whom a few months ago would have been hard put to find Uganda on the map, there were offers to sponsor 10 Asians. In the end, there were not enough cases to go around and they took only six. Asked to explain such an effort in favour of persons with whom his parish has no ethnic or religious ties, the pastor replied "This project has brought people together who had never worked together before and united them in a common cause. It has been marvellous to see their readiness to meet the distress of their fellow men, not because they have the same colour skin or go to the same Church, but simply because they need help. And if you want an explanation, in my opinion it is a clear case of the Holy Spirit at work."

The economic position of the Asians is becoming stronger every month. In many families there are several wage-earners, and they are living frugally, paying off the initial loans received from the Agencies and building up savings as they had done in Uganda. They are also making a strong effort to adapt their life-style to that of Americans. For example, in deference to their neighbours who may not share their fondness for the smell of curry, Asians have followed the recommendations of social workers and take care to give their apartments a thorough airing after each meal

Assimilation is of course quickest for children who have made friends at school and have already adopted American idioms and accents to a surprising extent. On the whole, the Asians with their natural reserve have reached an accommodation with the more extrovert American personality and have come to realize that there is no ulterior motive behind the generosity with which they have been welcomed. They see moreover that their success depends only on their abilities. And as keen businessmen they have grasped the fact that in the United States their talents and industry can in time bring them much greater material rewards than they might ever have hoped to achieve in Uganda.

Rashmi V.

One of the most unfortunate aspects of the expulsion and uprooting of Asians from Uganda was that many families were broken up in the great dispersal. Most holders of British passports, which included many women and children, went to the United Kingdom, while often the heads of families who, some time before, had decided to opt for Ugandan nationality, found to their dismay that they had undertaken the procedure too late.

Rashmi V., an accountant in his late 20's, was one of the Asians in the latter category who was selected by the United States in Kampala. His wife, Kundan, on the strength of her British passport had flown to the United Kingdom a month before to await the birth of their child, which was due in the latter part of January or early February, in the care of a brother and sister-in-law living in London. Rashmi also had good luck in being settled in the Harrisburg area. He was hired by Tressler Lutheran Service Associates and was welcomed as a roomer with one of the Organization's staff members. Early this year the wheels were set in motion to enable Kundan to rejoin him, together with their new-born daughter, Rakhee.

As spring came, Rashmi became increasingly impatient. Finally, he was informed that his wife and daughter would arrive on 29 March at 4.30 p.m. On that Thursday when he arrived for work he found his office decorated with signs bearing slogans such as "Together again at last", "Today you are a family man". Rashmi took all this good-natured joshing in his stride, and his reserve never left him, right up to the moment that the plane taxied to a halt and he stepped forward to help Kundan and her infant alight. In that second, however, his composure evaporated and his face broke into a broad smile of untrammeled joy and pride. Rashmi had been reunited with his wife and he had held his baby daughter for the first time-and the United States had gained another family.

Salehbhai R.

Within a week after three generations of the Salehbhai R. clan arrived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. on Election Day, 1972, all three adult males had been hired by Grimms Electronic Shop and were earning a combined total of $1,300m per month. The father repairs transistors, one son aged 26 works on cassettes and the other, 25, fixes car radios-specialized skills that are of tremendous demand in a country where practically every household owns at least one of each of these appliances.

"We could use some more men like them, I can tell you," says Mrs. Grimm who has been running the business with her son and daughter-in-law since Mr Grimm's death a few years ago. "Always on time, never any noise and absolutely dependable in what they do."

For the R's there is thus basically no change in their occupations, except that in Kampala they were their own bosses. Sponsored by a relatively wealthy parish in Mechanicsburg, a suburb of Harrisburg, the R's live in a typical American house, complete with front porch, on West Main Street. Because they came almost directly from Kampala with only a six-day stay m a transit centre near Naples, the transition was particularly abrupt and in a certain sense, unreal.

"One day we were in the East African sun and then all of a sudden it was the first time we saw snow." explains Liqata, the bachelor son.. "I was so excited I went out to play in it."

The R's landed just in time for Thanksgiving Day. A family from the Church invited the whole clan to share their traditional Turkey dinner.

"It was Thanksgiving for us, too," Liqata said. "From the very start we have had a lot to be grateful for..., good jobs, a nice place to live, and everyone trying to help us."

His brother, Inayatali, who forms part of the same household together with his wife and two young children, misses the wide circle of male cronies with whom he used to spend leisure hours playing cards or conversing in Uganda and realizes this type of social life takes time to build up in a new country. But it will surely come.

The member of the family making the fastest adjustment to American life is, without doubt. 13-year­old Hasina, whose flashing smile has helped her win a host of friends at Mechanicsburg Junior High. The principal reports that her academic performance is completely satisfactory, and she is certainly one of the most popular girls in the eighth grade. Hasina's classmates often walk home with her after school in the afternoon and are somewhat mystified to hear her conversing with her mother and sister-in-law in Gujerati, which is the language spoken at home. The adult R. women maintain the traditional Indian manner of cooking and take pride in donning their elegant saris when they go out to the local supermarket. One senses they do this somewhat in self-defense against the strong current of a way of life that is so different from what they knew in Uganda. But as the years go by and Hasina and her two little cousins, now two and eight, grow up, exerting an ever-growing American influence on their relatives, there is no doubt that the R's will become a prototype of something which does not yet exist in American society: an Asian­American household.

Prabashankar M.

The settlement of the Prabashankar M. family was sponsored by the small congregation in Pennsylvania mentioned above. Within a matter of days a parishioner had offered a small two-storey house next to her farm: it was in somewhat decrepit condition but a group of volunteers made up of professional carpenters and painters fell to work refurbishing the downstairs and converting what was essentially an attic into pleasant living quarters. The M's - two adults and four children under 10 - arrived in November to find the house ready and fully equipped with stove, refrigerator and all other standard household equipment.

"We had so many appliances flowing in from donors," Pastor B. Penrose Hoover recalls, "that I could hard keep track them."

Mr. M. had been an accountant with Barclays Bank in Kampala. At first there was some difficulty in finding him the same kind of employment and his first job was as a packer in a poultry processing plant. All the time he kept an eye open for a chance to get back to his own field. One day he spied an ad asking for an auditor

at the National Central Bank in Lancaster and, without telling anyone, he went over to investigate, was interviewed and got the job. His employer agreed that such an opportunity was too good to turn down and without any hard feelings allowed him to leave. Since then Mr. M. has proved his worth as a member of a flying team of auditors that makes spot checks on branches of the company throughout the area. a highly responsible position which speaks well for his training and integrity.

His boss, Mr. S. W. Bomberger. reports that Mr. M. is carrying out his duties in a most satisfactory manner and estimates that the United States and the Bank have acquired. in Mr. M.. skills entailing some $35,000 worth of education.

The eldest child, Shailesh, takes after his father in his flair for figures and stands first in his class in math among 22 fourth-graders at Summit Valley Elementary School. He is also developing into a fine athlete. This spring is his first baseball season but already he has successfully adapted his cricket style and more than holds his own with his classmates. Shailesh serves as the family interpreter when his father is not at home, as his mother speaks little English and the other children - a 5-year-old boy and two 8­month old twins - are too young to be of help.

Mrs. M. has had difficulties with a bone in one of her feet and has had to undergo a minor operation. As all the Asians were enrolled in a Health Insurance Scheme upon arrival, this expense is covered and will not play havoc with the family budget, which is already fairly tight because of the reimbursement on the loan received from the Agency and the instalment payments on a second-hand car, which is an absolute necessity for Mr M's work. During her stay in the hospital, parishioners again rose to the challenge and took turns looking after the children and cooking for the family.