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DISCRIMINATING HEAD TAX
The suggestion made by the Immigration Commission that a discriminating head tax might be levied in favor of men accompanied by their families, was intended to place a check chiefly upon those persons who come here with the intention of remaining but a short length of time, then returning to their home countries to invest their savings. This test, again, would doubtless result in many individual cases in the exclusion of thrifty men who have come here to make a home with the intention of bringing their families within two or three years. But here, again, this hardship might well be offset by the greater benefit of the exclusion of the classes that from the industrial viewpoint alone are the less desirable.
RESTRICTION TO FIXT NUMBER
The suggestion made that it might be possible to limit the "number of each race arriving each year to a certain percentage of the average of that race arriving during a given period of years," has a certain element of apparent fairness in it which makes it of interest. If for the time being we overlook the restriction placed upon the immigration of the oriental races, it would seem that all other races are presumably coming into this country in about their normal proportions, and any restriction which would apply closely to them by cutting off, say, 25 per cent. of the average number that has arrived annually during the last ten years, would be perfectly just. Some have thought, also, that a law passed in this form, by making no discrimination in name against any race, would meet the objections of the Chinese
to the present Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese Government now does not care particularly to have its laboring classes come to this country, but it does object to having its citizens selected by name, when other nations are not so mentioned, inasmuch as it seems to imply a degree of undesirability on the part of members of that race greater than that which applies to others. Inasmuch, however, as the Chinese and Japanese have been, within the last few years, positively discriminated against, such a law if passed now would simply continue that discrimination, with, however, the removal of the discrimination by name.
There is certainly much to be said in favor of such a measure, as a positive measure of restriction. The Government could determine with almost absolute accuracy just the number of people that would come in. On the face of it it makes no discrimination against any particular race. It would apparently continue, relatively speaking, the normal proportion of immigrants from the different countries. As soon as the number were positively known in advance, the steamship companies would doubtless readjust their sailings and accommodations in such a way as to prevent serious hardship, as at first thought might seem to be brought upon them by the passage of such a law.
On the other hand, there is nothing in this law which would tend to make a selection in the character or quality of the immigrants, such as seems to be in part at least brought about by either the literacy test or a test of the discriminating head tax. Discrimination in this respect is of exceedingly great importance.
The new measure proposed in the Dillingham bill limits the number of immigrants from any country
entering in any one year to 10 per cent. of the people from that country found in the country at the time of the preceding census enumeration. This has the merits of the measure last discust. It will be seen from the figures already given that it would also exclude especially those classes whose competition with our laborers is particularly to be feared as lowering the standard of living. It is on that account especially to be commended. It would quite possibly reach the result, even more effectively, if combined with the literacy test.
Diplomatic means should be employed to secure treaties with several countries to ensure the better exclusion of criminals and those morally undesirable, as well as to insure reciprocal action and reciprocal goodwill from those countries that, on racial grounds or for other reasons, seem to require special action.
THE IMMIGRATION LAW OF 1917 *
On February 1, 1917, the House of Representatives passed the Burnett immigration bill over the veto of President Wilson, and four days later it became a law through like action on the part of the Senate, thus ending a struggle for the restriction of immigration which had continued with greater or less intensity for more than twenty years. President Cleveland vetoed a general immigration bill in 1897, chiefly because it proposed the exclusion of aliens over sixteen years of age who were unable to read and write. A similar bill passed the Senate in 1898, but was refused consideration in the House by a majority of two. When the bill which became the Immigration Act of 1903, was under consideration, the House favored a reading test, but it was eliminated in the Senate. When the law of 1907 was enacted the Senate inserted the test, but the House proposed that the question of restricting immigration be postponed until the whole subject could be thoroughly investigated. As a result, the reading test was dropt from the bill and the Immigration Commission was created to make the investigation.
The Commission, after working more than three) years, recommended that immigration be restricted, largely on the ground that the unrestricted influx of
Written by W. W. Husband, Former Secretary of the United States Immigration Commission.
Southern and Eastern Europeans had produced an over-supply of unskilled labor, and suggested the reading and writing test as the "most feasible single method" of bringing about the desired restriction. Congress quickly accepted the Commission's view of the situation with the result that a long existing and frequently proclaimed sentiment in favor of immigration restriction developed into a fixt purpose to enact legislation to that end, with the reading test as the chosen method. Senator Dillingham, who was chairman of the Commission, and Representative Burnett, who was one of its members on the part of the House of Representatives, introduced what became known as the Dillingham-Burnett bill, which passed both houses by overwhelming majorities, but was vetoed by President Taft because it contained the reading test. The Senate promptly passed the bill over the President's veto by a vote of 72 to 18, but the vote in the House -213 to 114-lacked by five votes the two-thirds necessary to override the executive's disapproval. The bill was reintroduced in the following Congress in substantially the same form as before and passed the House by 252 to 126, and the Senate by 50 to 7, but President Wilson vetoed it and the House failed to overcome the veto by a narrow margin of four votes less than the required two-thirds, which action ended consideration of the matter, for the House having acted the veto message did not come before the Senate.
Undaunted by two defeats, Mr. Burnett again presented the bill at the next session of Congress and both houses again passed it by large majorities, and President Wilson again vetoed the measure. Congress, however, had become tired of executive interference in legislation which it had time and again so strongly