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SELECTIVE IMMIGRATION LEGISLATION
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 1924
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D.C. The committee met, pursuant to call of the chairman, in the committee room, Capitol, at 10 o'clock a. m., Senator LeBaron B. Colt presiding
Present: Senators Colt (chairman), Keyes, Willis, Reed of Pennsylvania, King, Harris, Harrison, Shields, and Copeland.
The committee had under consideration S. 2365 and S. 2576, bills to limit the immigration of aliens into the United States, and to provide a system of selection in connection therewith, and for other purposes.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee will come to order. There is a quorum present. We have with us the Secretary of Labor, Mr. Davis.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES J. DAVIS, SECRETARY OF LABOR
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Davis, the committee is very desirous of hearing you on the general subject of immigration, and especially with regard to the features embodied in the Watson bill, which, as we understand, represents a good many things which you favor along the lines of immigration. We would be very glad to have you make a general statement. Secretary Davis. Is Mr. Watson going to be here? The CHAIRMAN. I think not. Secretary DAVIS. I wonder if we could not ask him to? Senator REED. He is not in town, I believe.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Davis, the committee is aware that you have paid great attention to this subject of immigration, not only from a theoretical standpoint, but also from a practical standpoint in the administration of the law; and the chairman is aware that you have formulated your ideas in the shape of proposed legislation, and that those ideas have been largely expressed in the bill which is now known as the Waston bill, which was introduced by Senator Moses. We understand that as to the suggestions of quota you make no recommendation, believing that that is within the province of Congress entirely.
Senator King. I did not understand that he made no recommendation or that he had no views upon that subject.
The CHAIRMAN. He did not make any positive recommendations on the subject of quota. That statement was made by Senator Moses when he introduced the bill.
Mr. Secretary, if you would state, in a general way, both with regard to certificate selection at the source and also, having fixed some what of a nonelastic quota basis, whatever that basis may be, how far the law, in your opinion, should be made flexible in order to meet the question of relatives, in order to meet the question of skilled and unskilled labor, and in order to meet the question of seasonable labor, the committee would be glad to hear you.
Secretary Davis. Mr. Chairman, my point on the immigration certificate probably is not so different from the others as set forth in the Watson bill. My thought about it is that our immigration certificates should be issued by the consul himself. That is, if a man desires to come to this country, and we follow the present plan, he proceeds to his government for a passport to leave for the United States. My plan would be that he would go first to the American consul and secure his certificate. After he has secured his certificate he would then proceed, if it is necessary, to his government to get a passport to permit him to go to the United States. I reverse the order. I put the granting of the certificate in the consul's hands first, rather than give it to that particular government. Then you find out whether he is eligible to come to the United States. As it is, a man desiring to come to the United States presents himself to his government and if he is a good, big, strong, healthy man, and would be a real addition to the country they have the right to refuse him a passport.
Senator King. They would have that right, however, if you reverse it.
Secretary Davis. They would Have that right then, too, but if we should find that they were really refusing good, strong, healthy men to come to this country, we have the right under this particular bill to shut off immigration from that particular country. That is the penalty they suffer in refusing to let their strong men and women come to this country. For instance, if a country has a quota, we give preference to the husband and wife and the children of the parties here. In some of these countries they refuse to give passports to the women and children to come, because a charge is made against their quota. They give them to workmen to come to this country to work in order that they may remit money to support their families in that particular country.
For instance, a high officer of one of the countries in Europe said that his Government was interested in immigration to give us only the old men and the rubbish. Another was interested in getting rid of some four hundred thousand refugees from Russia; they were not interested at all in giving us their own men; and that is where I got the idea of reversing the order of the certificate, because I found in those working districts of the several countries that I visited thousands of men who were desirous of coming to this country. The order of business ought to be changed; a man ought to have the right to go to the American consul, and then, if his government refuses him a passport to come to the country, we would know it and we could shut off immigration to stop this dumping of the undesirables of Europe into America. That is the difference between the certificate that I suggest and the certificate that is offered in these other bills.
Senator REED. Would you require a visé to be made in addition to your certificate!
Secretary Davis. I would charge a ten dollar fee. That is sufficient for him after he secures his passport. I understand that there is some objection on the part of some of the countries that they travel through that the passport is not viséed, but nearly all of these countries have a port to which the emigrants can go direct without leaving their own country. I would not charge anything for the visé.
Senator REED. You might as well combine the visé function with the certificate function.
Secretary Davis. That is my opinion. His certificate is viséed. He uses the passport to get out of his own country,
Senator King. If your plan prevails you would have the applicant, after he has obtained his passport from his own government, report back to the consular officer who has given him the certificate?
Secretary DavIS. If he wants to do so, he can; but it is not necessary. He has his certificate and that serves as the visé.
Senator King. It seems to me that if the government rejected the applicant the American consular officer from whom he had obtained the certificate ought to be advised of that fact.
Secretary Davis. Oh, yes.
Senator King. It was for that reason that I made the inquiry. If your plan did not contemplate information it may be conveyed by the applicant whether accepted or rejected by his own government.
Secretary DAVIS. These regulations are made, under the bill, by the Commissioner General of Immigration with the approval of the Secretary and the Department of State, and he could exact of him if he were refused a passport that he come back and notify the officer.
Senator HARRISON. It would be necessary to keep some tabulation upon it for you or some limitation upon the quota, but it would not be necessary if you did not have a quota limitation. For instance, your consul in that particular country would not know when you had reached the limit unless he had reported back that this fellow was going across.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you suppose that the foreign governments would cooperate with us in issuing passports?
Secretary Davis. They do not know what to do with their population, Senator. Take it in Great Britain alone, and this illustration applies to all other countries. I make it Great Britain because I was born there myself and I can not offend anybody. Take the population in Great Britain now. They lost 900,000 men during the war. They have increased that population since the war by more than a million and they are adding to their population every year more than a quarter of a million. They have to have an outlet for their population. If you shut off immigration from those countries you will have a revolution in some of them.
The CHAIRMAN. Will you explain in a word again just the advantage of applying to the consul first for the certificate before the applicant gets his passport?
Secretary Davis. Let me make this illustration by using myself as Exhibit A. I am a European. I desire to come to America. As it is now I must proceed to my government for a passport. I would make it that I would go to the American consular officer. That is the natural place for me to go. I have America in my mind.
I go to the American consular officer and tell him that I want to go to America. He presents me this certificate which has to be filled out. The American consular officer can say, I want a medical certificate. I want to know what the health conditions of your family
I want to know something about you. I want to know all about you." He has these many questions that he propounds to me. I satisfy the American consular officer that I am fit and that my family that I expect to take with me, or that will come later after I have earned money in this country to send for them, is also fit. Now, the consular officer is perfectly satisfied that there is a wholesome family and he grants the certificate. Then I proceed with that certificate to my own government and ask the officer for a passport to go to America. In some of the countries they might refuse and we would find that they were refusing me a passport. Then we would have the power under this particular bill to shut off immigration from that county.
The CHAIRMAN. In the Johnson bill the emigrant must prepare a petition which sets forth in great detail certain facts, and upon that petition the consul issues the certificate which sets forth in less detail certain facts. Would you have those facts which the emigrant must state in the form of a petition? Or would you have those regulations laid down by the Department of Labor? Or would you have them in the form of the Johnson bill, which states specifically the facts which must be set out and sworn to by the emigrant? Your bill provides that it should be under regulations, does it not?
Secretary Davis. Yes.
Secretary Davis. But to let general rules and regulations be made by the Commissioner General of Immigration with the approval of the Secretary of Labor.
The CHAIRMAN. To follow out your illustration, if you are in Italy and you want to come to America and you go to the consul and want to get a certificate, is the consul going to trust to your word, etc.?
Secretary Davis. Well, the consul has all of the machinery. There are truly, some honest men in that particular country where he can get this information.
The CHAIRMAN. What must the emigrant do to get his certificate under your proposal?
Secretary Davis. He must comply with the rules and regulations set forth.
The CHAIRMAN. Those rules and regulations would not be statutory but would be the rules and regulations as set forth by the department?
Secretary DAVIS. Yes.
Senator KING. They could be statutory and you have authority to supplement them, but the authority to supplement would not give you the right to contravene the statutory provision.
Secretary Davis. That is right.
Senator HARRISON. You really think, then, that it is better to leave it with the Department of Labor with respect to rules and regulations than to statutory requirements ?