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INSPECTORS AND MATRONS ON SHIPS
One of the recommendations of the Immigration Commission was for the enactment of a law providing for the placing of Government officials, both men and women, on immigrant carrying ships, the purpose stated being the enforcement of the law and the protection of steerage passengers. This recommendation was prompted by the findings of agents of the Commission who traveled in the guise of immigrants in the steerage of a considerable number of transatlantic ships and both observed and experienced the hardships and indignities to which immigrants were subjected, especially on some of the lines. It was believed that if our immigrant inspectors and matrons were on board, steerage passengers would be afforded better protection and it was also believed that such officials could study the various immigrants during the ocean voyage and thus would be able to render valuable assistance to officials at ports of landing in their inspection of newcomers. The recommendation was seriously considered by Congress and provision for carrying it into affect has appeared in various bills during the past four or five years. It was feared, however, that it would be impracticable if not impossible to enforce such a law because of the doubtful right this Government would have to place officials on foreign ships sailing from foreign ports. After much discussion in committees and also on the floor of Congress it was provided that negotiations be entered into with those countries, vessels of which bring aliens to the United States, with a view to detailing inspectors and matrons of the immigration service for duty on such vessels. The outcome will, therefore, depend wholly upon the attitude of
foreign Governments and while some of them may grant the desired privilege it is altogether probable that others will refuse it.
The so-called administrative fine, which is a penalty imposed by the Secretary of Labor for certain violations of the immigration law on the part of steamship companies, has been a highly important factor in preventing such companies from bringing diseased or mentally deficient aliens to this country. In earlier laws this fine was imposed only in cases where aliens afflicted with a loathsome or a dangerous contagious disease were brought to United States ports, and when it appeared that the disease existed, and might have been detected by means of a competent medical examination, at the time of embarkation at a foreign port. The penalty was fixt at $100 in each case. The Immigration Act of 1907 amended the administrative fine provision of previous laws to include the bringing of idiots, imbeciles, epileptics, and persons afflicted with tuberculosis, as well as those afflicted with a loathsome or a dangerous contagious disease, but the amount of the penalty was not changed.
The new law, however, makes a far wider use of the administrative fine than its predecessors did, for in addition to the diseases named in the Act of 1907 it includes insanity, feeble-mindedness, constitutional psychopathic inferiority, chronic alcoholism, and tuberculosis in any form, and the penalty is increased from $100 to $200 in each case. A like penalty is provided for bringing aliens who are excluded because unable to read, or because they are natives of the restricted area in Asia previously described, if these dis
abilities might have been detected by the exercise of reasonable precaution prior to the departure of the aliens from a foreign port. An administrative fine of $25 in each case is also imposed for bringing aliens afflicted with any mental defect, other than those already enumerated, or physical defects which may affect the ability of the aliens to earn a living, provided, of course, that such defects existed when the alien embarked at a foreign port and might have been discovered by means of a competent medical examination at that time.
But the new law imposes another heavy penalty in all cases which are subject to an administrative fine, for it provides that, in addition to the regular penalty, the steamship company concerned shall be assessed an amount equal to that paid by each alien of the classes named for his transportation from the initial point of his departure for the United States, which amount is to be paid to the debarred alien by a United States. official.
The method of enforcing payment of administrative fines in all the cases considered is simple but exceedingly effective because the law provides that the vessels involved shall not be granted clearance papers until the fine is paid or a sufficient amount of money deposited to insure its payment. In practise the administrative fine system serves the double purpose of protecting the United States against the attempted immigration of diseased and defective aliens, and, what is more important, of saving inadmissible aliens from the cost, hardships and disappointments which are the inevitable result of coming to the United States only to be turned back at the gateway. In the past the fear of the fine has led steamship companies to make a fairly careful
medical examination of intending immigrants at foreign ports of embarkation. With the increased penalty imposed under the new law, and the new classes of aliens brought within the scope of the system, a more thorough and certainly a more comprehensive inspection abroad will result.
The new act makes numerous other changes in our previous immigration laws and some of the more important of these changes may be briefly mentioned. The old law excluded "women and girls coming into the United States for the purpose of prostitution or for any other immoral purpose," but in the new act this prohibition applies to all "persons," so that men as well as women and girls are included. Another very important addition to the law respecting immoral classes is found in the provision that the marriage of a sexually immoral woman to an American citizen shall not invest the former with citizenship and thus prevent her deportation, provided the marriage takes place after she has been arrested as a prostitute, or after the commission of acts which make her liable to deportation.
Aliens entering the United States are required by the new law to state under oath the purposes for which they come, the length of time they intend to remain in the country, and whether or not they intend to remain permanently and become citizens.
Under previous laws hearings before boards of special inquiry, which boards pass upon the admissibility of aliens in cases where immigrant inspectors are in doubt, have been "separate and apart from the public," but the new act provides that an immigrant who is
brought before the board may have one friend or relative present. Several sections of the new law are designed to prevent the privileges accorded to alien seamen under the seamen's law from being used as a means of violating the immigration law.
There are various other new or amended provisions in the new law which are intended to correct faulty administrative features of previous legislation, and on the whole it may be anticipated that the law will considerably strengthen our system of immigration regulation and control, in addition to the all-important fact that it marks the beginning of a national policy of immigration restriction.