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reading test for the admission of aliens is made by this bill. This test is in the following language:
That after four months from the approval of this act, in addition to the aliens who are by law now excluded from admission into the United States, the following persons shall also be excluded from admission thereto, to wit:
All aliens over sixteen years of age, physically capable of reading, who can not read the English language, or some other language or dialect, including Hebrew or Yiddish: Provided, That any admissible alien or any alien heretofore or hereafter legally admitted, or any citizen of the United States, may bring in or send for his father or grandfather over fifty-five years of age, his wife, his mother, his grandmother, or his unmarried or widowed daughter, if otherwise admissible, whether such relative can read or not; and such relative shall be permitted to enter. That for the purpose of ascertaining whether aliens can read the immigrant inspectors shall be furnished with slips, of uniform size, prepared under the direction of the Secretary of Labor, each containing not less than thirty nor more than forty, words in ordinary use, printed in plainly legible type in the various languages and dialects of immigrants. Each alien may designate the particular language or dialect in which he desires the examination to be made, and shall be required to read the words printed on the slip in such language or dialect. No two aliens coming in the same vessel or other vehicle of carriage or transportation shall be tested with the same slip. That the following classes of persons shall be exempt from the operation of the illiteracy test, to wit: All aliens who shall prove to the satisfaction of the proper immigration officer or to the Secretary of Labor that they are seeking admission to the United States solely for the purpose of escaping from religious persecution; all aliens in transit through the United States; all aliens who have been lawfully admitted to the United States and who later shall go in transit from one part of the United States to another through foreign contiguous territory.
This proposition to subject aliens to the reading test has been discussed by Congress and has been before the country for many years. It has passed the Senate several times, and at the last session of Congress passed both Houses, was vetoed by the President, passed over his veto by the Senate by a vote of about 4 to 1, and only lacked a few votes of having the necessary two-thirds to pass it over his veto in the House.
The great labor organizations, the large farmers' organization both North and South, and several large patriotic organizations all over the country, have time and again petitioned Congress to enact the illiteracy test for the admission of aliens.
The Legislatures of Ohio, Vermont, Tennessee, Virginia, and several other States have passed resolutions asking Congress to adopt it.
It will be seen that the main purpose of this test is to exclude from the United States alien immigrants over 16 years of age who are unable to read their own language or dialect. In order that there might be no doubt about the Hebrew and Yiddish being considered as either a language or dialect, they are expressly embraced in the bill.
From the requirement of the illiteracy test in the bill, there are several exceptions which the committee thought wise to make. We believe that those who are fleeing from religious persecution should find a city of refuge on our shores; hence the provision excepting immigrants of that class from the test where they are otherwise admissible.
Out of regard for marital and other close family ties, and the duties and obligations arising therefrom, as well as high moral considerations, the committee thought proper to make the other exceptions embraced in the bill.
A bill in its main features similar to this was considered by the House on February 20, 1907. The House felt that before action
that nature should be taken, there ought to be careful investigation of the question both in this country and in Europe. An amendment was offered by those opposed to the illiteracy test, providing for a commission for that purpose, and it was adopted.
The commission, after nearly four years of investigation and study of the question both in this country and in Europe, made its report to Congress more than a year ago. There were nine members of that commission, and they were unanimous in the following statement: The commission as a whole recommends restriction as demanded by econo
nomic, moral, and social considerations, furnishes in its report reasons for such restrictions, and points out methods by which Congress can attain the desired result if its judgment coincides with that of the commission.
Eight out of the nine, after citing various methods of restriction, concurred in the following report:
A majority of the commission favor the reading and writing test as the most feasible single method of restricting undesirable immigration.
It is certainly interesting, and we believe important, to know some of the reasons which led the commission up to these conclusions, and we will make a few extracts from the “Brief statement of conclusions and recommendations of the commission."
On page 25 of this statement they say:
The proportion of the more serious crimes of homicide, blackmail, and robbery, as well as the least serious offenses, is greater among the foreign-born. The disproportion in this regard is due principally to the prevalence of homicides and other crimes of personal violence among Italians and to the violation of city ordinances previously mentioned.
On pages 29 and 30 they say: It is certain that southern and eastern European immigrants have almost completely monopolized unskilled labor activities in many of the more important industries. This phase of the industrial situation was made the most important and exhaustive feature of the commission's investigation, and the results show that while the competition of these immigrants has had little, if any, effect on the highly skilled trades, nevertheless, through lack of industrial progress and by reason of large and constant reenforcement from abroad, it has kept conditions in the semiskilled and unskilled occupations from advancing.
Several elements peculiar to the new immigrants contributed to this result. They came from countries where low economic conditions prevailed and where conditions of labor were bad. They were content to accept wages and conditions which the native American and immigrants of the older class had come to regard as unsatisfactory. They were not, as a rule, engaged at lower wages than had been paid to the older workmen for the same class of labor, but their presence in constantly increasing numbers prevented progress among the older wage-earning class, and as å result that class of employees was gradually replaced. An instance of this displacement is shown in the experience in the bituminous coal mines of western Pennsylvania. This section of the bituminous field was the one first entered by the new immigrants, and the displacement of the old workers was soon under way. Some of them entered other occupations and many of them migrated to the coal fields of the Middle West. Later these fields were also invaded by the new immigrants, and large numbers of the old workers again migrated to the mines of the Southwest, where they still predominate. The effect of the new immigration is clearly shown in the western Pennsylvania fields, where the average wage of the bituminous coal worker is 42 cents a day below the average wage in the Middle West and Southwest. Incidentally, hours of labor are longer and general working conditions poorer in the Pennsylvania mines than elsewhere. Another characteristic of the new immigrants contributed to the situation in Pennsylvania. This was the impossibility of successfully organizing them into labor unions. Several attempts at organization were made, but the constant influx of immigrants to whom prevailing conditions seemed unusually, favorable contributed to the failure to organize. A similar situation has prevailed in other great industries.
Like most of the immigration from southern and eastern Europe, those who entered the leading industries were largely single men or married men unaccompanied by their families. There is, of course, in practically all industrial communities a large number of families of the various races, but the majority of the employees are men without families here and whose standard of living is so far below that of the native American or older immigrant workmen that it is impossible for the latter to successfully compete with them. They usually live in cooperative groups and crowd together. Consequently, they are able to save a great part of their earnings, much of which is sent or carried abroad. Moreover, there is a strong tendency on the part of these unaccompanied men to return to their native countries after a few years of labor here. These groups have little contract with American life, learn little of American institutions, and, aside from the wages earned, profit little by their stay in this country. During their early years in the United States they usually rely for assistance and advice on some member of their race, frequently a saloon keeper or grocer, and almost always a steamship ticket agent and “immigrant banker,” who, because of superior intelligence and better knowledge of American ways, commands their confidence. After à longer residence they usually become more self-reliant, but their progress toward assimilation is generally slow. Immigrant families in the industrial centers are more permanent and usually exhibit a stronger tendency toward advancement, although, in most cases, it is a long time before they even approach the ordinary standard of the American or the older immigrant families in the same grade of occupation. This description, of course, is not universally true, but it fairly represents a great part of the recent immigrant population in the United States. Their numbers are so great and the influx is so continuous that even with the remarkable expansion of industry during the past few years there has been created an oversupply of unskilled labor, and in some of the industries this is reflected in a curtailed number of working days and a consequent yearly income among the unskilled workers which is very much less than is indicated by the daily wage rates paia, and while it may not have lowered in a marked degree the American standard of living, it has introduced a lower standard, which has become prevalent in the unskilled industry at large.
On pages 33 and 34 they say:
ASSIMILATION OF IMMIGRANTS.
It is difficult to define and still more difficult to correctly measure the tendency of newer immigrant races toward Americanization or assimilation into the body of the American people. If, however, the tendency to acquire citizenship, to learn the English language, and to abandon native customs and standards of living may be considered as factors, it is found that many of the more recent immigrants are backward in this regard, while some others have made excellent progress. The absence of family life, which is so conspicuous among many southern and eastern Europeans in the United States, is undoubtedly the influence which most effectively retards assimilation. The great majority of some of these races are represented in the United States by single men or men whose wives and families are in their native country. It is a common practice for men of this class in industrial communities to live in boarding or rooming groups, and as they are also usually associated with each other in their work they do not come in contact with Americans, and consequently have little or no incentive to learn the English language, become acquainted with American institutions, or adopt American standards.
On page 37 they say: As a result of the investigation the commission is unanimously of the opinion that in framing legislation emphasis should be laid upon the following principles:
1. While the American people, as in the past, welcome the oppressed of other lands, care should be taken that immigration be such, both in quality and quantity, as not to make too difficult the process of assimilation.
2. Since the existing law and further special legislation recommended in this report deal with the physically and morally unfit, further general legislation concerning the admission of aliens should be based primarily upon economic or business considerations touching the prosperity and economic well-being of our people.
3. The measure of the rational, healthy development of a country is not the extent of its investment of capital, its output of products, or its exports and imports, unless there is a corresponding economic opportunity afforded to the citizen dependent upon employment for his material, mental, and moral development.
4. The development of business may be brought about by means which lower the standard of living of the wage earners. A slow expansion of industry which would
permit the adaptation and assimilation of the incoming labor supply is preferable to à very rapid industrial expansion which results in the immigration of laborers of low standards and efficiency, who imperil the American standard of wages and conditions of employment.
On page 39 they say: 8. The investigations of the commission show an oversupply of unskilled labor in basic industries to an extent which indicates an oversupply of unskilled labor in the industries of the country as a whole, and therefore demand legislation which will at the present time restrict the further admission of such unskilled labor.
It is important to remember that the commission was created at the instance of those opposing the illiteracy test, and that their conclusions were evidently the result of long and careful investigations.
The opponents of this test often invoke the message of President Cleveland, on March 2, 1897, vetoing a bill reading as follows:
By adding to the classes of aliens thereby excluded from admission to the United States the following: All persons physically capable and over 16 years of age who can not read and write the English language or some other language; but a person not so able to read and write who is over 50 years of age and is the parent or grandparent of a qualified immigrant over 21 years of age and capable of supporting such parent or grandparent may accompany such immigrant, or such a parent or grandparent may be sent for and come to join the family or a child or grandchild over 21 years of age, similarly qualified and capable, and a wife or minor child not so able to read and write may accompany or be sent for and come and join the husband or parent similarly qualified and capable.
It will be seen that the bill reported by this committee is much more liberal in many respects than the one falling under Mr. Cleveland's veto. Besides, that was 15 years ago, and the great influx of the class that are now coming in had scarcely begun. For instance, during the year 1897 the total immigration to this country was only 230,832, while for 1911 it was 878,587, the South Italians and Polish being 231,084, which alone was more than the whole number of immigrants from all sources during the year that Mr. Cleveland wrote the message.
During that year the number from the British Isles was 34,281, that from Germany 22,533, while that from Italy and Greece was only 60,002. Last year it was 189,950 from Italy alone.
The small immigration from southern and eastern Europe had not then begun to affect economic conditions as they are now being affected.
For the year 1910 the immigration was 1,041,570, of whom 223,453 were from Italy alone. This was only about 7,000 less than the whole number that came in during the year in which Mr. Cleveland sent in his veto.
Another important change from the existing law is that of penalizing steamship companies for bringing in insane aliens, and increasing the fine on the steamship companies for bringing in insane and other excludable aliens from $100 to $200.
The insane under the present law can be excluded, but there is no law which now imposes a fine on the steamship companies for bringing them in. The result of this is that the insane asylums of New York are being filled with alien insane and it is costing that State nearly $4,000,000 a year to take care of them.
The same is true in a less degree of several other North Atlantic States.
The Commissioner of Immigration in his report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1911, has this to say in regard to the question:
One of the most useful provisions of the present statute is section 9, by which a fine of $100 is assessed against any steamship line that brings to a United States port an alien afflicted with a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease, or with tuberculosis, or with idiocy, imbecility, or epilepsy. During the past year such fines were assessed in 246 cases, the aggregate amount being $24,600, of which $23,700 was on account of the first, $100 on account of the second, and $800 on account of the third class, respectively. It is believed this statute would be much more effective, however, if the amount of the fine were made considerably larger-sufficiently large to compel the transportation companies as a measure of self-protection to use greater care in the medical inspection of embarking passengers. The fine should also be made to cover cases of insanity, a class omitted from the present statute probably by inadvertence.
On page 9, report of New York State board of alienists for the year ended September 30, 1911, is the following:
It must be remembered that foreign countries look with favor upon the emigration to America of diseased and defective persons. Examination by American officials at the ports of embarkation in Europe has been strenuously opposed by certain foreign Governments, and it is a notorious fact, commented upon in every annual report of the Commissioner General of Immigration, that the steamship companies make only the most perfunctory medical examination of passengers upon their departure for America. Thus there are no obstacles in the way of diseased persons embarking for this country. In the case of those returning, however, the conditions are reversed. The passengers are carefully scrutinized by ships' surgeons at the gangway as they embark at the port of New York, and those who do not satisfy the steamship officials or the representatives of foreign Gavernments stationed on such ships are peremptorily refused passage, even although they have been only a short time away from the countries to which they still owe allegiance. Cases are not decided individually upon their merits, but as soon as it is learned that an applicant for passage has been in an institution for the insane he is at once rejected. It can be seen that with an unimpeded flow of inferior immigrants to this country, and with an outflow which is so carefully regulated that only the prosperous and sound can return, we must ultimately become the asylum for an increasing number of those unable to sustain themselves.
On page 22 of the same report is the following: For the first few years after the commencement of that remarkable migration of the races of southern and eastern Europe to this country (to which Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Russia have contributed nearly 500,000 persons a year) it is noted that the increase of patients of those nationalities in the State hospitals was gradual. By 1905, however, it was possible to predict that when the effects of the " new immigration commenced to be felt the “old immigration” (of Germans, Irish, and Scandinavians) would be outdone in the numbers of insane added to the foreign-born population of our State hospitals. To-day that prediction is fulfilled, and during the year more than 55 per cent of the aliens deported by the United States Immigration Service were natives of those three countries.
The New York Times of March 28, 1912, says:
The Times is informed by Secretary McGarr, of the State commission in lunacy, that of the 31,432 insane patients under treatment in the 14 State hospitals on February 10 last, 13,163, or 41.9 per cent, were aliens. Foreign-born patients have increased since the Federal census of December 31, 1903, by 1,552, or 13.4 per cent. In the two State hospitals for the criminal insane there were 1,230 patients on February 10, of whom nearly 44.4 per cent were of alien birth; the Federal census of 1910 showed a percentage of aliens to total population in this State of 29.9 per cent.
The prevalence of insanity among immigrants is evidently much greater than among the native born. Of the 5,700 patients admitted to the civil hospitals for the year ending September 30, 1911, 2,737, or 48 per cent, were aliens, and 1,481, or 26 per cent, were of alien parentage, while only 1,224, less than 26 per cent, were of native stock. Of the whole number, the nativity of but 218, which is 3.8 per cent, was not ascertainable. Insanity among the foreign peoples of this city occurs in a still larger percentage of cases. Of the first admissions to the hospitals, 2,006 out of 3,221 residents of the city were of foreign birth; that is 64.1 per cent, although the foreign-born population is but 40.4 per cent of the whole.