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DEPORTATION OF ALIENS
FRIDAY, APRIL 30, 1937
UNITED STATES SENATE,
SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION,
Washington, D. C.
Pursuant to adjournment, the committee reconvened in the committee room, 412 Senate Office Building, Senator Lewis B. Schwellenbach (chairman) presiding.
Present: Senator Schwellenbach.
STATEMENT OF READ LEWIS, DIRECTOR, FOREIGN LANGUAGE INFORMATION SERVICE, NEW YORK CITY
Senator SCHWELLENBACH. Please give your name.
Mr. LEWIS. Read Lewis, director of the Foreign Language Information Service, with offices at 222 Fourth Avenue, New York City. Senator SCHWELLENBACH. You may proceed, Mr. Lewis.
Mr. LEWIS. Mr. Chairman, this group of bills contains a series of provisions touching our treatment of aliens. Those are more severe than anything, I think, in our American history. They are so drastic and harsh that one wonders what emergency or justification there is for such a reversal of American policy in this regard.
I think it would be well, perhaps, in analyzing these bills to recall that the alien is not a criminal or outcast but a human being, like the rest of us; that the alien and his wife, after all, are neighbors, and in many cases our parents or grandparents, people who have settled the United States during the last 100 years, more than 38,000,000 of them having been admitted, and that one-third of our total population comes from foreign countries.
This first bill, S. 1363, by its first section gives a grant of such arbitrary and dictatorial power that I have little doubt that it would be regarded as unconstitutional, certainly against sound policy. Banishment by individual decree may be possible in other countries, but it seems to me we are very far from having reached the point in a democracy like the United States where we will tolerate any such thing as proposed by this first section.
The second section deals with the deportment of aliens on relief. There has been a good deal of talk on this subject, and the assumption usually made is that American citizens are paying for aliens on relief. As a matter of act, aliens are paying for citizens on relief. The board of aldermen in New York City last summer directed an investigation to be made by the relief authorities of the city as to the citizenship of the people on the relief rolls and it was discovered that the number of aliens on the relief rolls of the city was considerably less, in proportion to the population. Similar results have been obtained in one or
two other places where such statements have been made. There has been no study that I know of showing that there were more aliens on relief than citizens, in proportion to the population.
The National Council of Naturalization and Citizenship has made a recent study which, I think, has an important bearing on this topic. They have taken 5,000 cases of aliens who have applied for relief and questioned them in regard to family relationships and the status of the family, and it has been discovered that for every alien family where one or both parents is an alien there are 3.08 children who are American citizens. So that very frequently, and generally, in dealing with that question of aliens on relief, you have a background of American citizens who are being helped by such relief.
Senator SCHWELLENBACH. Where was that study made?
Mr. LEWIS. These agencies cooperated in making the study throughout the country in many different States. I do not have a list here. Senator SCHWELLENBACH. Do you know how the 5,000 were chosen? Mr. LEWIS. In a purely arbitrary way. There was a certain agency in Chicago, which was asked to secure a cross section of the people on relief. They were simply taken in numerical order. Every effort was made to get a cross section of the individuals.
I think I may also say, Why should not an alien go on relief? When of our own free will we admit an alien as a permanent resident, we are accepting him, provisionally, at least, as a member of our American society. We already have a provision in our law which I think prevents abuses in that regard, because we do provide for the deportation of any alien who becomes a public charge within 5 years after entry. Now, when we have admitted an alien for permanent residence, and he goes those 5 years without becoming a public charge, it seems to me we have a certain obligation and responsibility in regard to him, as well as he has toward the community. If, through misfortune or economic conditions quite beyond his control, the alien does not land a job, is unable to secure profitable employment, I do not know why we should not as a country take our share of the relief necessary to care for those families, many of whose members are American citizens.
To deport persons who for 6 months during any period are on public or private relief, would work, it seems to me, the greatest kind of hardship and injury. After we have admitted the alien for permanent residence, it seems to me in decency and fairness that we cannot discriminate against him in any such vital matter as relief. I think it is to the great glory of the United States that through this period of the depression there has been, by and large, practically no discrimination against our alien population in that regard. That has been our history, and it seems to me it is a policy of fair dealing that ought to be maintained.
Senator SCHWELLENBACH. On that point let me ask you a couple of questions.
Is it not correct to assert that, in order to justify deportation of an alien who has been regularly admitted and has resided in the country for a period of time, the Government, if it is fair, must be able to find to its own satisfaction that that alien is or that a group of aliens are in a class, either through their conduct or through individual acts, that their presence here as individuals or as a class is more inimical to the interests of the citizens of the United States than other individual aliens or other classes of aliens? Is not that the basis
of it, that they have committed a crime, or are insane, or something of that kind?
Mr. LEWIS. Yes. Than other classes of aliens or classes of our general population?
Senator SCHWELLENBACH. Yes; making the distinction between these individual aliens and the class of aliens that is deported. Mr. LEWIS. Yes.
Senator SCHWELLENBACH. Therefore, is it not logical to say that, if we are to deport the individual alien or a group of aliens as a class, because of the fact that they find it necessary to go on either public or private relief, it must be because we are convinced that those individuals or that class are less able to take care of themselves and support themselves than either other aliens or the general group of citizens in the country? Do you agree with that second point? Do we not have to say, in order to justify their deportation because they are on relief, that they have proved to be less capable of taking care of themselves and providing a living for themselves than other groups of aliens or the general public?
Mr. LEWIS. Certainly without such proof there could be no justification for deportation.
Senator SCHWELLENBACH. The only ground upon which the Federal Government can justify taking funds from the taxpayers as a whole and using those funds for the support of individuals in the form of relief is that we have and have had in this country for the last 3 years a general economic condition for which no individual is responsible, for which the responsibility rests upon the country as a whole in its failure to solve its economic problems in such a way that everybody can get a job; and that the mere fact that the Federal Government does provide relief is in itself proof of the fact that the fault does not⚫ lie with the individual, but lies with the country as a whole for its failure for various reasons to provide economic security for its citizens in the form of jobs?
Mr. LEWIS. I think that is a fair inference.
Senator SCHWELLENBACH. The argument is made, Mr. Lewis, that we have many millions of American citizens out of work in this country, and that by the very simple procedure of picking up aliens and deporting them we could solve our problem of unemployment. Assume for the purpose of illustration that is correct. I should like to refer to a very outstanding example, which may be and no doubt is greatly exaggerated, of an effort to solve the unemployment problem, which occurred in Russia prior to the war.
A certain town in Russia sent word to St. Petersburg that they had a problem of unemployment and needed assistance from the Government of the Czar. So the Government sent the Cossacks to this town to investigate, and an investigation was made. It was determined that during the next few winter months there would be twice as many men in the town as employment could be provided for. So the Cossacks simply got everybody in town on the principal street, and they had half of them go on one side of the street and half on the other. They thereupon proceeded to kill the half on one side of the street, and then turned to the authorities and said: "You say you have twice as many men as you can employ. Now, we have taken care of your unemployment problem."
Of course, that is an exaggerated example. No suggestion is made that we should kill any aliens, but it is suggested that we take aliens whom we have permitted to come into this country, very largely inviting them into this country, and say we are going to put them on a boat and send them away to some other country, not caring whether they live or starve to death. I do not think in this country that anybody would even think of suggesting that we stand them up and shoot them, but in many instances that would be much more humane than putting them on a boat and sending them to some country where they would have no means of support and where they might die of starvation.
Mr. LEWIS. I heartily agree with what you have said. An equally naive sort of propaganda underlies much of the discussion on this subject. It is said that we have so many unemployed in this country. It is assumed that any new immigrant coming to the United States under those conditions automatically adds one to the number of unemployed. Of course, every new person coming to this country also adds one to our consumers. During recent years most of the comparatively few people coming in have been women and children joining families already here, so that they have been consumers without being producers in a sense. It is assumed, just as you have suggested, that some of our unemployment is the result of those people coming into the United States. As a matter of fact, it is the result of the diminution of our purchasing power as a whole and our productive forces and our failure to organize those productive forces.
Senator SCHWELLENBACH. That is all. You may proceed with your statement.
Mr. LEWIS. To take up the next bill, S. 1364, providing for alien registration, that provides for the annual registration and fingerprinting of all aliens in the United States. At the hearing yesterday it was suggested that would result in inconvenience and annoyance to the individual alien, and you objected, Mr. Chairman, I think quite rightfully, that that was no reason for not undertaking such a measure. I agree with that. The question, is whether such a sweeping process is justified; that where the ends to be accomplished are sound, the inconvenience of the individual is not to be taken into consideration. Alien registration, however, would involve the setting up of a very elaborate and costly machinery, and it seems to me that it would serve no useful purpose. The alien who would register would be in general the law-abiding alien whose registration would serve no special purpose whatever.
It is undoubtedly true, after all, that the alien who is illegally here, and the alien criminal, neither of those two classes can be expected to come in and register, if such a bill as this is enacted. How is the Government going to apprehend them? Not through deportation. If this bill were enacted into law, it would find it impossible and the Government would be powerless to deal with the situation. I think it is a fair observation that no registration system which applies to only a part of our population-and that a small part-is going to be effective, where the particular part of our population to be registered is not distinguishable in any obvious way from the rest of the population. Certainly there is nothing to distinguish the alien from many millions of our citizens. So that the thing, it seems to me, would result in great inconvenience and annoyance and the establishment of
a complicated piece of machinery without accomplishing any useful purpose.
As a matter of fact, I think it would be harmful, in that it tends to single out and set apart the very part of our population we should try to assimilate and integrate as closely as possible to our whole population. And certainly, if such a system of registration is not contrary to our American ideals and traditions, then I think it should apply to our people as a whole.
There are one or two provisions in this bill to which I would like to call special attention. Take, for example, section 7, which provides: It shall be the duty of every alien in the United States, who has been registered as herein before provided, to notify the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization of the United States of every change of address, with a statement as to whether the change of address is permanent or temporary. If the change of address is permanent, it shall be the duty of the alien to turn in his registration card at the nearest post office and make application in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Board for the issuance of a new card; and every alien in the United States shall renew his registration annually at such dates as may be designated on his registration card.
Then section 11 provides that—
Any alien who shall fail to comply with the provisions of this act shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, and, upon the payment of the fine or the completion of sentence, the alien shall be taken into custody on a warrant issued by the Secretary of Labor and deported forthwith from the United States.
In other words, you would deport every alien who fails to notify the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization of every change of address. You will find similar provisions when you take the time to analyze the bill in detail. That may be simply bad bill drafting, but I think you will find there are many instances where such a provision would work a hardship upon aliens as a whole.
Section 4 provides that no immigration visa shall be issued to any alien seeking to enter the United States unless the alien has been fingerprinted. That would apply not only to immigrants coming here for permanent residence but to all visitors, and to our friends across the Canadian border who might seek to come in, and from the British Isles and other countries. I can imagine that such a provision as that would create quite a turmoil for our State Department to deal with.
The next bill, S. 1365, deals chiefly with deportation and contains provisions for the deportation of aliens far more drastic and sweeping than anything we have ever had in the history of the United States. As I suggested a moment ago, I wonder what there is in the conditions in this country to justify any such proposal. The Department of Justice issued recently its annual figures analyzing arrests in the United States during 1936. They bear out the same conclusion which has been expressed before this committee. For 1936 the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported on 461,589 arrests throughout the United States. For every 100,000 native-born whites, 435.4 persons were arrested. For every 100,000 foreign-born, 199.2 persons were arrested. In other words, the proportion is more than 2 to 1, so far as arrests are concerned. I have the figures here.
The Bureau of the Census a few months ago issued figures in their annual census of prisons. It generally takes some time to get those figures together and the last figures issued cover the year 1934: There were 45,091 white persons committed in 1934 to our Federal and State