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DIGEST OF SENATE HEARINGS CONCERNING EMERGENCY IMMIGRATION LEGISLATION.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Colt). These hearings are to be held mainly upon the Johnson bill, which provides for a temporary suspension of immigration. As I understand it, the real issue before the committee at the present time is one of a temporary suspension of immigration-pending a full investigation of the whole subject of immigration with the idea in the future of passing some permanent or constructive legislation after a thorough investigation of the whole matter in view of present world conditions.
In dealing with an emergency question of that character we would naturally look at its effects from the economic standpoint: How would the suspension of immigration affect the business of the country? Then, in dealing with the question of emergency legislation or a suspension of immigration, you would naturally look, secondly, to the menace that is threatening this country with regard to immigration.
As to the flood of immigration, which it has been represented is about to pour in upon us from Europe, the committee have desired, and do desire now, to ascertain data, facts, and information upon that subject. That information would naturally divide itself into two propositions:
First, the extent and character of the immigration for the year ending June 1, 1920, but more especially the number of immigrants, their character, during the months following the 1st of July, or from the 1st of July, 1920, down to the present time.
Secondly, the committee desires information as to the truth of the reports of the number of immigrants from foreign countries who purpose to come to this country—that is, whether the statements that have been given out of the number who purpose to come from Italy or from Russia or from various European countries are correct.
Having ascertained, first, the facts with regard to the threatened flood of immigration, and, second, the actual number of immigrants who have come in down to the 1st of December, 1920, and especially the so-called increase during the last three or four months, the committee would be prepared to judge of the emergency character of the situation; and then, before any final decision upon the question, of course the committee would feel bound to look into its economic effect upon the country.
The committee has invited and would be very glad to hear from Mr. Johnson, chairman of the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization of the House of Representatives, and the author of the bill.
DIGEST OF STATEMENT OF HON. ALBERT JOHNSON, A REPRESENTA.
TIVE FROM THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.
Mr. Johnson said that he desired to deal entirely with the emergency condition. There had been a rumor in foreign countries that the United States would suspend immigration by January 1, 1921, but in the meantime a representative of the Italian Government had been in this country begging that the time allowance for the bill to prohibit immigration, which was 60 days, be made 6 months, in order to permit Italy to send to this country those of its people in line for passports. He would call attention to the fact that one law passed by Congress was to the effect that the war passport suspension in so far as applying to aliens should operate to the 4th of March, 1921. That law had not been operative for the reason that the provisions of the war passport matter continued to operate until we have a declaration of peace. This situation alone created an emergency concerning immigration for the reason that some day soon we should have a declaration of peace and no passport laws. But the passport system, he believed, was here to stay and Congress would so declare. He thought, too, that it was a mistake, even as a temporary matter, to have such a law operate partly under the Department of Labor and partly under the State Department, because of the confusion that necessarily ensued.
The argument that the temporary suspension bill might serve to end the United States as an asylum for political refugees fell for the reason that under the passport system a refugee was unable to get a passport from certain countries. Our consular agents in all parts of Europe have the right to refuse them only in certain cases, and not in cases that fall under the immigration laws themselves. A consular agent declined to give his visé to a man whom he determines is a political disturber or revolutionist. But he could not refuse, under the instruction that the Department of Labor gave to him, to give his visé to an alien who was physically deficient, nearly blind, or suffering from some other physical disability. He must let him go on to the United States and try it out at the gates of Ellis Island.
The bill before the committee was merely a temporary measure, and he had hope that the good features of the so-called Billingham bill and the so-called Sterling bill could be added to the bill under consideration. The bill was not an absolute suspension; it was extremely liberal. By its provisions, citizens who were in the United States could send for their blood-line relatives.
Mr. Johnson called the attention of the committee to the fact that when the passport regulation dies, there would be no means to stay a possible great migration from Germany, and there were indications that many Germans would like to come here. He pointed out that the French press viewed with alarm the vast number of aliens, whom it characterized as “the dregs of Europe,” in France, fearing that France instead of America might become the catchbasin for these undesirables. He presented an editorial of the Saturday Evening Post which favored immediate temporary suspension of immigration. The editorial, entitled “No admittance,” said:
The bill framed by Mr. Albert Johnson, chairman of the House Committee on Immigration, which will, if it becomes law, largely shut off the inflow of aliens for a period of one year, is one of the most important pieces of legislation that is likely to come before the present Congress.
Among the heartiest supporters of Mr. Johnson's measure are the labor interests. The main reason for their backing is obvious. The commodity they have for sale is the work of their hands; and their desire to have the price of that commodity maintained at a time when other prices are melting away is just as reasonable and just as natural as the wish of their employers for increased protective tariffs on the goods they manufacture. The protection of labor by an act temporarily shutting out alien workers would probably exercise a marked tendency to counteract unemployment during the period of deflation through which we are now passing. Such a measure would be heartily applauded by one of the most numerous and most powerful elements in the country; but that is by no means the strongest argument that can be urged in favor of the Johnson bill.
The disquieting fact is that we are confronted by a grave emergency. According to reports submitted to the Department of State, millions of intending immigrants of the poorest and most refractory sort are almost literally standing in line at European seaports waiting for ships to bring them over. Their menace is not distant, but immediate; and self-protective action must likewise be immediate if our national interests are to be safeguarded.
If the World War can teach us anything it should have taught us the folly of throwing open our sea gates to all the peoples of the Old World on farcically easy terms. It used to be one of our proudest boasts that we welcomed the downtrodden, the oppressed, the poverty-stricken, the fit and the unfit to a land of freedom, of plenty, of boundless opportunity. Our hindsight tells us that this boast was fatuous. The exploiters of cheap labor and the incurable sentimentalists stand almost alone in their continued allegiance to our policy of the past. All thinking men who have no ax to grind, no nest to feather, are becoming aware that if we are to shape our national destinies with the smallest regard for common prudence we must pick and choose our future immigrants, and admit only such as show some signs of being the stuff of which good Americans can eventually be made. This picking and choosing should be done in accordance with a new body of laws, painstakingly considered and laboriously worked out by practical men in the light of past experience and of present world conditions.
Mr. Johnson's bill is designed to give Congress leisure in which to accomplish the vast amount of constructive work that must be done before we can hope to write into our statute books a wise immigration code. Inasmuch as such a body of laws, to be really effective, should require thorough investigations of intending immigrants at ports of embarkation and at many foreign centers of emigration, a somewhat formidable organization of expert officials will have to be built up before the highest standard of choosing can be enforced.
The short closed season provided for in the Johnson bill would be of the highest value in allowing time for the gradual building up of an adequate foreign immigration service. Moreover, such a breathing space would afford a welcome opportunity to find out what we can do with those aliens who have as yet shown no willingness to exchange their imported political and social ideas, feuds, tongues, and conditions of life for those of the land that is to be their future home. It would serve also as a training season for those patriotic citizens who are endeavoring to work out practical programs for intensive courses in Americanization.
It is futile to deny that our future immigration policies are a paramount issue. In late vears the character of those who have been coming to us from overseas has unmistakably deteriorated. Our immediate and imperative need of a system of social and political quarantine, over and above all old-fashioned immigrational restrictions, is too self-evident to require argument.
The Johnson bill appears to be the first step toward future safety. It merely authorizes the posting of “No Admittance” signs on every frontier—a warning off of strangers until we shall have set our house in order, made a new set of rules, and arranged to have the premises properly policed.
Mr. Johnson said that he was informed prospective immigrants were brought to certain ports of embarkation and kept in stockades, 2,500 at a time. He had heard that the poverty-stricken came to Danzig from an area 100 miles around, and that when they came out of the required baths they could obtain neither their clothes nor their money.
Mr. Johnson said that he desired to discuss the present unemployment in the United States. There was a vast amount of unemploy
ment. At Denver 10,000 were reported to be out of work; at Providence and in the vicinity, 23,000; at Rochester, N. Y., 26,000; at Omaha, 10,000; at Kansas City, 15,000; at Newark, N. J., 41,000; at St. Louis, 35,000; at Detroit, 154,000. The cause of this unemployment was to be attributed to overproduction on the one hand and to an excess of common labor on the other.
Mr. Johnson informed the committee that in July, 1919, 83,954 immigrants arrived at Ellis Island; in August, 86,500; in September, 98,400; in October, 101,000. Conditions in Europe, he said, were so much worse than they were here, in spite of the unemployment of so many of our citizens, that great numbers of aliens would come to our shores if they were permitted to come. Notwithstanding the tremendous increase of steamer steerage rates, the passport system, and the fee for viséing and registration, from 70,000 to 100,000 aliens a month had been able to meet their expenses and come. The argument had been made that the bill shut out common labor and admitted dependents, but his experience was that dependents, illiterate or otherwise, were admitted by some kind of bargain made at Ell Island.
The principal newspapers and persons opposed to the bill, Mr. Johnson averred, have always opposed any restrictions upon immigration and probably always would. Their argument was always the elusive cry, "keep out the bad, let in the good." There was to-day no middle ground between those who desired unrestricted immigration and those who desired restricted immigration. If we went on each year encouraging the belief that we must have more common labor than our own, more serf labor, the time would come when, if House and Senate tried to enact restraining legislation, it would be too late, because we should have become dependent on serf labor and bound to listen to the appeals of those who used it or thrived upon it. That was the nub of the whole problem.
There was an emergency problem, declared Mr. Johnson. He was constrained to believe the reports of State Department agents which described conditions in Central Europe. The people there were disturbed. The farmers were not growing crops.
Persons were losing business, and selling out and migrating. But this bill was not aimed at any particular people; it was aimed at all peoples.
Mr. Johnson did not wish to pose as an alarmist, but there was much unemployment in America to-day. High prices had slowed down buying and the demand for labor. Warehouses were full to bursting and freight cars from Baltimore to Boston were idle on every sidetrack. In his own section of the country all the canners had their warehouses full of cans purchased at war-time prices and were unable to sell their fish for what they paid for their cans. The result was that the industry was gone, and would be for a year or so. it also with other industries. We should not forget the disturbance caused to small communities of from 10,000 to 20,000 persons, whose working people have been encouraged to buy homes and become citizens when an array of newly arrived alien common labor comes and cuts wages 20 or 30 per cent. That upsets little communities as well as big ones. A knowledge of this fact, he believed, was responsible for the present tremendous demand for the suspension of immigration. He had heard from responsible persons that one reason
why the European nations were recovering so slowly was that the whole people had got into the mulling movement; they wanted to move, and, if possible, would come to America.
In regard to the claim that farm labor was needed, Mr. Johnson pointed out that only 2.1 per cent of our present immigrants were farmers and only 3 per cent were farm laborers. Neither were household servants coming
In conclusion Mr. Johnson said that the great trouble which the House committee had in presenting its bill was an increasing desire upon the part of our people to have common household and factory labor; that is, serf labor. Many States had reached the point where they did not wish to have this labor naturalized, though they desired the labor. He was firmly of the conviction that a mistake was made in increasing the number of people who do not take part in elections. In the long run it would prove to be fatal. When one finds great nests of these people in the cities and smaller places one must not be surprised to learn that they join communist parties and believe in direct action.
Mr. Johnson presented paraphrases of State Department consular reports as to conditions in various European countries.
DIGEST OF STATEMENT OF MR. G. S. FLETCHER, MIAMI CHAMBER OF
COMMERCE, MIAMI, FLA.
Mr. Fletcher said that he was opposed to the Johnson bill because the vegetable crop of east Florida is entirely dependent on labor imported from the Bahamas, and had been ever since the industry was begun 25 years ago. These laborers were negroes who received at home only 75 cents a day. In Florida they were paid from $2.50 to $3 a day. They worked for six months in Florida and then returned home. They would not stay in this country. It was impossible to get labor from any part of this country. The attempt had been made and failed. The Bahama laborers did not come into competition with any other class of labor. They lived only 140 or 150 miles away, and were willing to spend half the year in Florida. No other class would come to Florida for only six months' work, and if the Florida farmers could not get this labor they would be forced to go out of business.
Mr. Fletcher declared that he had never heard of these laborers causing any trouble. They were law-abiding, did not sympathize with unions, and embraced no radicalisms. Without their labor the loss to farmers, bankers, and merchants would be millions of dollars.
These laborers were experts. They leave their women behind and come withou solicitation. Mr. Fletcher emphatically denied that the steamship companies had anything to do in inducing this labor to come.
DIGEST OF STATEMENT OF MR. K. I. M'KAY, ATTORNEY FOR THE CIGAR
MANUFACTURERS' ASSOCIATION OF TAMPA, FLA.
Mr. McKay opposed the Johnson bill in behalf of an industry which interested not only Tampa but Key West, St. Augustine, Jacksonville, and Miami. The cigar industry had existed in Tampa for 35 years and had grown to a considerable size and was expanding