Posted by: Democratic Thinker | December 28, 2009

Advice to the American Immigrant


Edward A. Steiner, born in what is now the Czech Republic, shares in his memiors lessons he learned as an immigrant to America.

… yet, I say it again and again, Holy America! Holy America!

Advice to the Immigrant.


AMERICA! we were in the magic, holy land—America! I have seen this rapture and felt it; I have rejoiced in it when others felt it, and I want all those to taste it who come and come again. Therefore, I have gone back and forth, and I should like to go unwearyingly on to guide men into this rapture and to interpret to them its meaning.

Edward A. Steiner.

I should like the entrance into the United States to be a poem to all who come, and not the horrible tragedy into which it often resolves itself when the first ecstasy is over. All the way across the sea I would make of every ship a school, with such fair comforts as men are entitled to, for their money.

I should like to teach them that they may enter without fear and without uttering a lie, so that those at the gate might know that these new comers are human, and treat them as such, so long as they conduct themselves properly.

I should like to teach the strangers that there is a fair reward for hard struggle and an honest living wage for an honest day’s work. That they must guard their health by abstinence from intoxicating drink, and I should like to prohibit its sale on board of ship and everywhere else. For to the immigrants, the ignorant immigrants, alcohol is a lying curse. They believe that it strengthens and that no hard labor can be done without it. I should like to tell them also that their health will be guarded in mines and factories and that their bodies and souls have value to man and to God.

I should like to point to the Goddess of Liberty and say that she welcomes all who come in her name, that she guarantees freedom to all who obey law, that our law is always reasonable and that, if it is a burden, it falls upon the shoulders of rich and poor alike.

I should like to tell them that they have nothing to fear in this country except their own frailties, that there are no barriers here but their own clannishness and that the way to the best is open to all who walk reverently. This and more I should like to be able to teach; fragments of it I have taught, more of it than many of them will find true, I fear. But to me so much of it has been true that I should like to have all men find it so.

I have suffered much here, I have gone the whole scale of hunger, sorrow and despair; yet, I say it again and again, Holy America! Holy America! And I want all men to be able to say it, as they said it with me under the lee of the land where free men live.

—Edward A. Steiner, From Alien to Citizen (1914).