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STATEMENT OF JAMES L. WILMETH, PHILADELPHIA, PA., REP
RESENTING THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE JUNIOR ORDER, OF UNITED AMERICAN MECHANICS
Senator HERRING. Please state your name and whom you represent.
Mr. WILMETH. My name is James L. Wilmeth, of Philadelphia. I represent the National Council of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics.
Senator HERRING. You may proceed.
Mr. WILMETH. I understand from the remarks of the chairman that our time is limited.
Senator HERRING. Yes.
Mr. WILMETH. These bills have been pretty well analyzed on both sides of the question, and for that reason my statement will be more or less general.
Our fraternity is a patriotic and not a labor organization, even though its name might so indicate. It is 86 years old, or will be in May. I am not sure, but I think we are the original sponsors of restrictive immigration in this country.
As a fraternity, or as an organization, we sponsored it when it was. not attractive and when it was not acceptable to do so. We were in existence at the time of the old padrone system and had a good deal to do with the doing away of the contract labor system. We were also in existence at the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Incidentally, in speaking, I want to make reference to that and the Japanese Exclusion Act with reference to the friendliness advocated in connection with the countries of the Western Hemisphere.
In the pioneer days they used to call it neighborly when one person had something to do and neighbors came in to help him, and at another time he would help them. We think it would be a neighborly thing for these countries in the Western Hemisphere to adopt that part. of the bill which puts them on a reciprocal basis. We would have no objections to admitting as many of their nationals as they would admit of ours. When we see fit through legislation to completely restrict Japanese and Chinese immigration, that, of course, is considered as an unfriendly act; but we cannot see where it would be unfriendly, as proposed in one of these bills introduced by Senator Reynolds, in dealing with the nations of the Western Hemisphere, to admit as many of their nationals as they will take of ours.
Now, with your permission, I will try to cover a few of the things that have been spoken about today.
The first gentleman who spoke on both of these bills and analyzed them quite completely, thought it would be unwise to enact the provisions of s. 407 to further reduce immigration. We cannot accept that view nor that conclusion.
The first restrictive immigration act in this country was the Burnett bill in 1917. I was a member of our fraternity at that time, and we had a great deal to do in helping to prepare that. Senator REYNOLDS. He was from California? Mr. WILMETH. No; Alabama.
That bill had to be passed over the veto of the President of the United States, but it was passed, nevertheless.
Then the next general bill was in 1924, which fixed the present quotas.
Let me digress for a moment to inquire if the figures given this morning referred to the quota immigration. I think it did for the most part.
Mr. HOUGHTELING. Which figures?
Mr. WILMETH. You spoke of the number who came and went during the last few years.
Mr. SHAUGHNESSY. That included the whole world.
Mr. SHAUGHNESSY. Quota and nonquota; quota for the Western Hemisphere, and nonquota for the rest.
Mr. Wilmeth. It was the act of 1924 which established the quota. That has been 15 years ago. Conditions were entirely different then from what they are now. We were in prosperity at that time, and if in a time of prosperity we considered it necessary to reduce immigration and to put a limit upon it, how much more forceful is the argument today, with conditions entirely different, with depression and unemployment, that there should be a revision of these quotas?
We submit that it is time, high time, to redraft the quotas for these various countries.
I do not wish to draw any conclusions for these gentlemen here, but they stated specifically that they had no particular recommendation to make on the quotas at the present time. Our organization wants to see the quotas cut down at least 90 percent, which we think would be in accordance with the times now, as compared with the times and economic conditions when these quotas were established in 1924. We submit that for the careful consideration of the committee.
I must hurry along, but I do want to say a word about the registration of aliens. I am registered, and am proud of it. I am a citizen and voter in Pennsylvania. I went down the other day and took my wife along to purchase some postal-savings certificates. They had her put her fingers down, and they registered her. She did not object. I do not object to this card. I think it is something to be proud of. It identifies me as an American citizen. I do not accept the view of the first gentleman who brought up the question of the expense of that system. I think it will be worth every cent it will cost and it will pay large dividends in the long run. We are for the registration of aliens. We are for the registration of visitors here.
I want to say just a word, if I may digress from my line of thought, not in criticism, but the Senator from Oregon, in speaking about some activities in his section of the country by organizers and leaders who were aliens, referred to what they were doing there.
Week before last, in the city of Bellingham, not far from your domicile, Senator Holman, there was a conference held under the domination of two outstanding alien leaders on the west coast, one from San Francisco and the other from the Puget Sound district. There was no smoke coming out of the stacks of those great plants at Bellingham. Those great lakes that were jammed with logs were vacant. The lumber industry in that section is paralyzed today. Why?
Senator HOLMAN. Do you know how many men are out of employment as a result of that?
Mr. WILMETH. I do not.
Mr. WILMETH. I know that two outstanding labor agitators, who were aliens, were present in Bellingham week before last. One is Harry Bridges, and the name of the other is Pritchett. He is a visitor under a permit issued by the Secretary of Labor under authority of law. His activities became so notorious that the people of the State of Washington began to make efforts to get him out of the country. His home is in British Columbia. When that became acute, he applied to the American consul in Vancouver and came into this country on a visitor's permit. Considerable correspondence ensued. As I said, I am not now attempting to criticize anybody.
Senator HOLMAN. Why not?
Mr. WILMETH. I want to say this to you, gentlemen of the committee, that at the time his application was pending for a visa in the office of the American consul general, under the direction of the State Department, and he a visitor here, there was no opportunity for him to come, and he did not come and present himself. When he did his visa was refused. He is still in this country.
Senator HOLMAN. Will you let me interrupt you?
Senator HOLMAN. I know the specific case and the very man you are talking about. He went to the employer--and my authority for this statement is the employer—and told that employer while that decision of the United States district court was under appeal in the United States circuit court that if this lower court was sustained—and in the meantime the Federal Labor Commission or Board had attempted to stay the decision of the United States district court—that if the Circuit Court of Appeals sustained the lower court he would see that additional matters were trumped up to keep the mills from operating.
Senator REYNOLDS. In connection with that condition, is it not true that the State Department declined to issue a visa to this man but that he was eventually admitted under the authority of the Secretary of Labor?
Mr. WILMETH. I am not sure as to that. I am only going to the point that he was here on a visitor's permit, and he was refused a visa by the State Department. Senator REYNOLDS. He is still here?
Mr. WILMETH. He was, week before last. I want to make this observation as a taxpayer and citizen. It looks to me like we need closer and a more cooperative relationship between those two great Departments of the Government with respect to these things, a much closer enforcement of the law on the part of the Department of Labor. I am not criticizing anybody. I have a right to make that statement, and I make it as a citizen, as a sovereign voter of this country:
Senator HOLMAN. I do not see why we should be so careful about criticizing these people.
Senator REYNOLDS. I think you are right. I am 100 percent in accord with the Senator from Oregon.
Mr. WILMETH. What I have told you is not hearsay. I was interested in that case, and we brought to bear all the influence we could on the Senators from Washington to secure relief,
I want to say a word about the Dies bill which has been referred to. We opposed that bill. We opposed it before the committee when it had hearings on that bill. We opposed certain features. But there were some good amendments made to that bill. But one of the things we objected to remains. I am mentioning this because the Commissioner today referred to the matter.
That bill conferred authority upon the Secretary of Labor to stay 8,000 deportations. It did not stop there. It went further and authorized the Secretary of Labor to stay 1,500 deportations a year for 4 years to come, some of whom probably had not committed a crime.
Commissioner HoUGHTELING. You are wrong. It was 3,500 the first year and 1,500 for the next 3 years, which makes 8,000.
Mr. WILMETH. Then that figure of 8,000 is correct.
Mr. HOUGHTELING. There were 8,000 who were to be relieved of deportation under the Dies bill, who had wives, children, husbands, or parents who were American citizens, and who had good moral character.
Mr. WILMETH. I stand corrected on that.
Senator REYNOLDS. As to good moral character, I went over about 50 of those cases in 1936, and there were not over 5 of the 50 aliens, every one a law breaker, that had a good moral character.
Mr. HOUGHTELING. I doubt it.
Mr. WILMETH. It seems to our organization that this relative question is a rather serious thing. Nobody thinks more of his relatives than I do. I think so much of mine that I am writing a book about them. But using these relative cases in an effort to evade the law does not look very good to us. Do you know there is the greatest amount of propaganda going on right now on this sort of thing? I saw a letter from a doctor in Vienna, in which he outlined his plight, and it was very bad. There is no question about that. He asked á man whom he had never seen, whose name he had gotten out of Who's Who in America to send him an affidavit of relationship in order that he might come into this country. There are some of those letters coming over here all the time. In view of the extenuating circumstances, there may be some excuse for it; but I want to tell
you that you are dealing with a slippery lot of people when it comes to those people who make up their minds to get into this country by hook or by crook, and I do not envy these gentlemen their job.
I have a great deal of sympathy for people in the condition of those people over there, but we should not let that run away with our judgment in the enforcement of these laws. We are for every one of these bills, modified to meet conditions, and if they are enacted into law I am sure you will have a better situation. We are for every one of them, as I say, modified to meet conditions that may arise.
STATEMENT OF MR. C. H. PAUL, ALTOONA, PA.
Senator REYNOLDS. Mr. Chairman, this gentleman would like about 30 seconds before you adjourn.
Senator HERRING. Very well.
Mr. Paul. My name is C. H. Paul, Altoona, Pa. I represent the patriotic order, Sons of America of the United States.
I will not attempt to go into matters in detail. We concur in every word that Mr. Trevor has said today, and we have gone on record long before this in favor of eliminating immigration into the United States. We are in favor of every one of these bills: All five of them have been submitted to us, and I can submit to the Senators the report of our committee.
Senator HERRING. We will convene again tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock.
(Whereupon, at 4:20 p. m., an adjournment was taken until the following day, Wednesday, March 22, 1939, at 10 a. m.)