« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
favored, and the House with little debate passed the bill over the President's veto by a vote of 287 to 106, or 25 more than the required two-thirds, and the Senate took like action by a vote of 62 to 19.
THE READING TEST
Altho only one of several important, or even radical features of the new law, the literacy test, or strictly speaking the reading test, is the best known and undoubtedly the most important and far-reaching provision of the measure. The text of the test, with its various modifying clauses, is as follows:
That after three months from the passage 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 some one of the various languages or 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. 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 to avoid religious persecution in the country of their last permanent residence, whether such persecution be evidenced by overt acts or by laws or governmental regulations that discriminate against the alien or the race to which he belongs because of his religious faith; all aliens who have been lawfully admitted to the United States and who have resided therein continuously for five years and who return to the United States within six months from the date of their departure therefrom; 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.
The enactment above quoted needs little explanation. It will be observed that its purpose is to exclude from the United States all aliens over sixteen years of age who can not pass a simple reading test, but care has been taken to prevent the separation of families, at least so far as children, dependent women and elderly persons are concerned. A concession is made in favor of the admission to the country of aliens who are seeking asylum from religious persecution, and from the language of the law in that respect it is very clear that Russian and Roumanian Jews are the chief intended beneficiaries, altho, of course, there are some other peoples like the Christians of Turkey who might also seek to take advantage of the exception, Still another exception permits illiterate aliens who have resided in the United States continuously for five years to make temporary visits abroad without foregoing their right
Compared to the reading tests proposed in previous bills the provision as finally enacted into law is more
stringent in some respects and more lenient in others. In earlier bills, for example, immigrants from Canada, Newfoundland, Mexico, or Cuba were not required to meet the test, but there are no such exceptions in the new law. On the other hand the bill which President Taft vetoed made no provision for letting down the bars to persons fleeing from religious persecution, and the first bill presented to President Wilson required that aliens, claiming exemption from the reading test on that account, must prove conclusively that they came to this country solely to escape such persecution, but the corresponding provision in the present act, as already shown, is far more liberal in that respect. The recent overturn of the Russian monarchy, however, and the subsequent edict of the provisional government granting entire religious freedom in Russia has seemingly made the exception inoperative, so far as Jewish immigrants from that country are concerned, and accordingly the law in that particular regard became practically obsolete even before it went into effect.
EFFECT ON IMMIGRATION
In the present situation it is practically impossible to make anything like a satisfactory forecast of the probable effect of the reading test on the future tide of immigration. Indeed, such a forecast would have been extremely difficult even in normal times, and now that war has become an unknown, but certainly a most important factor in the problem, any reckoning concerning what may happen must of necessity be largely if not purely speculative. One great difficulty in this regard lies in the fact that the reading test is qualitative and fixes no numerical limit to immigration. It will no doubt keep out the utterly illiterate, but the test
is so simple that almost anyone could fit himself to meet it in a short time if he so desired. Besides, there is always the possibility that if those who can not read are denied admission, those who can read will come in their stead, especially if the population pressure at home is strong and the inducements to immigration in this country sufficiently alluring. Moreover the number who may be entitled to admission under the various exceptions to the test is an unknown quantity and our immigration statistics afford no satisfactory basis for calculations in that respect. An admissable alien, for example, may bring in an illiterate father or grandfather who is more than fifty-five years of age, or he may bring in his wife, his mother, his grandmother, or his unmarried or widowed daughters without reference to their age or ability to read, but available records give no hint of the numerical importance of these various classes.
'As a matter of fact about the only available data which shed any light on the question are found in the Bureau of Immigration records which show the number of illiterate aliens of the various races, fourteen years of age and over, who can read but can not write, and the number who can neither read nor write. Obviously the latter but not the former are excluded by the law, which, as already stated, requires an examination only in reading. The following table shows the number of totally illiterate aliens fourteen years of age and over who were admitted to the country during the year ending June 30, 1914, which was the last year of immigration undisturbed by war, compared with the total influx of the various races during the same year:
ILLITERACY AMONG IMMIGRANTS ADMITTED TO THE UNITED STATES DURING THE YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 1914, BY RACE
West Indian (except Cuban)
2,467 103,548 1,422
Per cent. of illit
It should be explained that the figures, or more especially the per cents., in the foregoing table are not a fair measure of the relative illiteracy of the various races, for the reason that in some cases there are comparatively few persons under fourteen years of age among the immigrants, while in other cases they are comparatively numerous. To illustrate, only 4 per cent. of the Greeks, 7 per cent. of the Ruthenians, and 9 per cent. of the Croatians and Slovenians, are under