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IMMIGRATION BILLS BEFORE CONGRESS.
Important changes in existing immigration law are proposed in a bill (H. R. 563) which was introduced in the House of Representatives May 19, 1919, by Hon. Albert Johnson, chairman of the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. The leading feature of the bill provides for a two years' suspension of immigration, with the exception of certain professional classes; near relatives of former immigrants; aliens fleeing from religious persecution; and skilled labor, provided labor of like kind unemployed can not be found in this country. A similar bill, but providing for a four years? suspension of immigration instead of two, was favorably reported from the House committee at the last session, but the Sixty-fifth Congress ended March 4 without taking further action. Other bills introduced at the present session fix the proposed suspension period at three years and four years; and one, a Senate bill, proposes to stop immigration from every source for a period of 20 years, and from Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey for a period of 50 years.
Regarding the proposed suspension of immigration as provided in these various bills, the bureau favors a continuation of the present immigration law. This law provides the best selective system yet devised by the Government, and it is believed that its far-reaching defensive machinery, aided by certain constructive provisions of H. R. 563 hereinafter explained, will meet all requirements of the existing situation and fully protect the people of the United States. It is a question of serious importance whether it is desirable to set aside the traditional policy of the Government concerning the admission of peoples from foreign countries at a time when world conditions are being reestablished on lines calculated to promote more friendly relations, and when the Government is endeavoring to increase its merchant marine and extend its foreign commerce.
The present law, owing to war conditions, has not really been put into full operation. It was conceived to meet the situation that existed during the 15 years prior to 1914, when nearly 15,000,000 aliens, or an annual average of nearly 1,000,000 were admitted, and the necessity for the improved administrative and protective features provided by the new law was accentuated by the fact that the influx had increased until the average annual admission during the last five years of that period totaled more than 1,200,000. From experience already had the bureau believes that when it is put to the test the law will fulfill the purpose of Congress when it was enacted.
It is obvious that the adoption of a law suspending immigration temporarily would have the same injurious effect upon our efforts to further American commerce and enterprise in foreign countries, as though it provided for permanent prohibition. Morever, the firstnamed bill provides for a number of exceptions, so that a certain amount of immigration would be permitted in any event, and, this being the case, a continuation of the present law would be required to deal with it. Thus the Immigration Service would have to be maintained and, judging from past experience with exclusion laws, it would even be necessary to increase the number of officials with consequent increased cost of maintenance. In other words, the
proposed law would in fact produce in the entire immigration system the same conditions and difficulties that are now encountered in the administration of the Chinese-exclusion law.
There are several considerations, therefore, that should be borne in mind in considering the question of immigration suspension, and, in view of the conditions that would be produced by such a change in our policy, the bureau is convinced that existing and anticipated problems would be better met by a continuation of the present immigration act, supplemented by certain constructive provisions which are proposed in the Johnson bill. Some of these provisions recommended by the bureau may be briefly summarized as follows:1
1. Our present immigration policy is negative, in that the law enumerates certain classes of aliens deemed to be undesirable and therefore inadmissible to the country, and regards all others as eligible to enter. Decisions as to admissions and rejections, particularly the former, are necessarily made in haste and usually only on such evidence as can be secured from the aliens themselves. It is true that the law makes possible the expulsion of aliens after entry under certain circumstances, thus affording a measure of protection against mistakes made at the time of admission, but, although important, this has been a rather minor incident in the general plan. The proposal is to remedy this situation by providing that immigrants who meet the surface tests of the law and appear to be admissible, but whose real character and purpose is unknown, may be admitted provisionally and required to report at stated times, until upon the showing made they are finally admitted or debarred.
2. None of our immigration statutes, except the Chinese-exclusion laws, has contained any positive expression upon the subject of burden of proof with respect to the admissibility of aliens.' As a result the Government has been placed in the disadvantageous position of having to prove that an alien is inadmissible, rather than being able to demand that the alien should prove that he is admissible. A complete reversal of this practice is proposed by requiring that in examinations at ports of arrival the burden of proving that he is admissible under the law shall be upon the alien.
3. It may be further pointed out that we have made no effort at all to utilize the time elapsing between the embarkation of immigrants at foreign ports and their arrival at our ports as a period in which observation and something like scientific and thorough selection might occur. It is suggested that advantage of this opportunity be taken by providing that inspectors and doctors shall be placed on vessels of United States registry, and others the owners of which consent, for the purposes alluded to.
4. The provisions of the bill making changes in the present law as regards seamen are shown by the bureau's experience to be necessary to perfect the excellent system inaugurated by the immigration act of 1917 under which much progress has already been made.
5. The registration sections have in view the development of a practicable plan for the assimilation as well as the protection of alien
1 Appendix V of this report presents a proposed now immigration law, with explanatory memorandum, which the bureau prepared February 3, 1919, and subsequently submitted to the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. Many of its provisions appear in the bill (H. R. 563) now before that committee.
residents. The work of assimilation requires a knowledge of the environment, the occupations, and the conditions, economic and otherwise, surrounding aliens in this country. In this connection a ready method of making known frauds practiced against aliens and losses or injuries sustained by them should be established. Provision should be made for both public authorities and private organizations to take a beneficial interest in aliens and enable them to acquire a fair knowledge of what our laws, Federal, State, and municipal, require of them; particularly is this so in respect to the laws governing immigration, naturalization, labor, education, health, and kindred subjects. Registration, as contemplated by the proposed legislation, will assist in bringing these constructive measures to a successful issue, eventually placing those aliens so inclined on the road to intelligent and useful citizenship. As a means of protection to the law-abiding and peace-loving people of this class, and as an aid in the enforcement of the immigration laws, it will be invaluable. The Bureau of Immigration, as the arm of the department dealing wholly with aliens, and particularly new arrivals, has official connection with them and hence should have a proper place in any plan devised by the Government in the work of their assimilation and Americanization.
It is recommended that the seamen's sections of the bill be segregated from the balance of the measure and introduced separately, owing to the necessity for immediate action on the subjects affected, and to take advantage of the progress that has been made since the enactment of the seamen's provisions of the act of February 5, 1917. This recommendation is made in view of the possibility that a general immigration law may not be enacted at an early date.
The House committee also reported favorably a bill providing for the deportation of interned alien enemies and aliens convicted of violation of various war-time laws, but this failed to become a law in the Sixty-fifth Congress and has been reintroduced. This bill was recommended by the bureau and had the approval of the department.
A so-called per centum plan for regulating immigration has been presented to the House committee at the present session by an organization known as the National Committee for Constructive Immigration Legislation, but up to the end of the fiscal year no bill in this regard had been introduced. The plan referred to provides that the number of aliens of any race or so-called "mother tongue" group, who may be admitted in any year, shall not exceed a given per cent (5 to 15 or 3 to 10 per cent suggested) of the naturalized persons and Americanborn children of such race or group in the United States as shown by the census of 1920; the exact per centum rate to be determined annually by an immigration commission composed of the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Commerce, and a third person appointed by the President. The plan further stipulates that the standards of qualification for citizenship shall be raised, and that the privilege of naturalization shall be extended to aliens of every nationality who qualify. Finally, the plan includes the repeal of all laws dealing specifically and differentially with the Chinese.
As to the plan of the National Committee for Constructive Immigration Legislation, the bureau does not favor its policy or purposo. It does not believe in changing the present policy of naturalization except to improve the same by limiting admissions to citizenship to those now admissible who voluntarily seek the privilege. It does not favor the percentage plan nor the repeal of existing exclusion laws. The plan is experimental in many respects, is not demanded by any considerable number of our people, and is aggressively opposed by a large part of the population. We need the development of the present immigration system on constructive lines rather than experiments in new departures, however inviting they may be made to appear, or the introduction of new problems that may disturb economic and social conditions. The policy of exclusion is an established American policy; it has already avoided and practically solved one race problem; it will, if continued and extended, solve all that may present themselves, and it should be extended rather than abolished or curtailed.
Other bills introduced in the present Congress proposed to repeal the illiteracy test; to expel and exclude from the United States aliens who, to escape military service, have withdrawn their declaration of intention to become citizens; to prohibit the immigration of Asiatic labor; while others relate to the Americanization and education of admitted aliens, but, as already stated, no action had been taken when the fiscal year closed.
THE PASSPORT-VISÉ SYSTEM. In its last report the bureau directed attention to the fact that shortly after the United States entered the World War it became evident that this country must protect itself against all plans and schemes of the enemy, including those that might involve the sending to the United States of spies, and like activities. On July 26, 1917, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor issued a joint order requiring that aliens coming to the United States should present passports and that in the process of securing the approval by American consular officials they should furnish quite detailed information concerning themselves, and also providing for the investigation of these
cases, to as full an extent as possible, by diplomatic and consular officials stationed abroad. The joint order of July 26, as well as the regulations promulgated by the Department of State in connection therewith, resulted from various conferences held between the Bureau of Citizenship and the Bureau of Immigration, for the purpose of discussing the proper supervision of aliens coming to the United States during the continuance of the war. While the regulations were being enforced at the seaports and on the land boundaries by immigration officers, and in foreign countries by diplomatic and consular officials, the interested branches of the Departments of State, Treasury, War, Navy, Justice, and Labor exerted every possible effort to prepare a law that would more adequately deal with the subject which the joint order and accompanying regulations were intended to cover as an emergency arrangement. These efforts resulted in the passage of the act of May 22, 1918, “To prevent in time of war departure from and entry into the United States contrary to the public safety.” Upon the basis of this act, the President issued a proclamation followed by an Executive order establishing regulations for the complete control of the travel of aliens to and from the United States. These regulations
were enforced abroad by diplomatic and consular officers and in the United States by officers of the Treasury Department (customs service), of the Department of Justice, and of the Bureau of Immigration. As a part of the regulations, the joint order, which had proved so effective as an emergency measure, was continued in force.
In the way above described there was established a system for the control of the travel of aliens more complete and more effective than any which had ever been put in operation by the United States Government. It made possible an at least fairly complete inquiry with regard to the character and antecedents of every alien who was seeking to come to this country, as well as the discovery, usually in most minute detail, of his purposes in coming. It is not meant by this that the system was perfect; like all human institutions, doubtless, it failed in certain instances, or perhaps in certain respects, to accomplish the objects in view, but, all of the circumstances considered, it was a most excellent arrangement for the purpose for which it was devised.
Incidentally, but nevertheless in very valuable and rather extensive ways, this visé-of-passports system placed upon immigration to the United States a safeguard which, simply from the point of view of the adequate protection of the country against undesirable or undue immigration at a time when economic and other conditions were disturbed, was of most distinct value. Observing this, and having in mind also the experience of the bureau in the enforcement of the Chinese-exclusion laws, in connection with which officers specially trained in the enforcement of those laws were a number of years ago placed in the principal consulates in the Orient, the bureau has become satisfied that to a considerable extent the immigration laws would be valuably supplemented in times of peace if a system modeled on the one above described, with or without the use of passports, could be permanently adopted. The bureau does not mean by this that the enforcement of the immigration laws could, by any means, be transferred from the ports of this country to the places in foreign countries whence aliens come, or even to the seaports of foreign countries at which they embark when emigrating to the United States. There are certain difficulties, which seem to the bureau insuperable, in the way of so complete a change of practice. But if trained immigration oflicers were attached to American consulates, to act as advisers with respect to questions raised by prospective immigrants, and as advisers to the consular officials who visé passports, also to perform such other functions as may be required in any plan of immigration control that is evolved, it is believed that the results would be most beneficial. Aliens in every respect eligible and desirable would in this way be fully informed of the laws and regulations; but those inadmissible for any reason and even those likely to be rejected on arrival at United States ports would either be discouraged from coming or would at least be put upon notice and could then have no one to blame but themselves for the hardship that might result from their being rejected on arrival at this side.
Of course, the situation with respect to the Chinese-exclusion laws is somewhat different from that with regard to the immigration laws. Under the former statutes members of the exempt