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The old immigration movement in recent years has rapidly declined, both numerically and relatively, and under present conditions there are no indications that it will materially increase. The new immigration movement is very large, and there are few, if any, indications of its natural abatement. The new immigration, coming in such large numbers, has provoked a widespread feeling of apprehension as to its effect on the economic and social welfare of the country. Because of this the Commission's investigations have been mainly directed toward a study of its general status as part of the population of the country.
The old immigration movement was essentially one of permanent settlers. The new immigration is very largely one of individuals a considerable proportion of whom apparently have no intention of permanently changing their residence, their only purpose in coming to America being to temporarily take advantage of the greater wages paid for industrial labor in this country. This, of course, is not true of all the new immigrants, but the practice is sufficiently common to warrant referring to it as a characteristic of them as a class. From all data that are available it appears that nearly 40 per cent of the new immigration movement returns to Europe and that about twothirds of those who go remain there. This does not mean that all of these immigrants have acquired a competence and returned to live on it. Among the immigrants who return permanently are those who have failed, as well as those who have succeeded. Thousands of those returning have, under unusual conditions of climate, work, and- food, contracted tuberculosis and other diseases; others are injured in our industries; still others are the widows and children of aliens dying here. These, with the aged and temperamentally unfit, make up a large part of the aliens who return to their former homes to remain.
The old immigration came to the United States during a period of general development and was an important factor in that development, while the new immigration has come during a period of great industrial expansion and has furnished a practically unlimited supply of labor to that expansion.
As a class the new immigrants are largely unskilled laborers coming from countries where their highest wage is small compared with the lowest wage in the United States. Nearly 75 per cent of them are males. About 83 per cent are between the ages of 14 and 45 years, and consequently are producers rather than dependents. They bring little money into the country and send or take a considerable part of their earnings out. More than 35 per cent are illiterate, as compared with less than 3 per cent of the old immigrant class. Immigration prior to 1882 was practically unregulated, and consequently many were not self-supporting, so that the care of alien paupers in several States was a serious problem. The new immigration has for the most part been carefully regulated so far as health and likelihood of pauperism are concerned, and, although drawn from classes low in the economic scale, the new immigrants as a rule are the strongest, the most enterprising, and the best of their class.
a See p. 182.
© See p. 171.
* See p. 176.
CAUSES OF THE MOVEMENT.
While social conditions affect the situation in some countries, the present immigration from Europe to the United States is in the largest measure due to economic causes. It should be stated, however, that emigration from Europe is not now an absolute economic necessity, and as a rule those who emigrate to the United States are impelled by a desire for betterment rather than by the necessity of escaping intolerable conditions. This fact should largely modify the natural incentive to treat the immigration movement from the standpoint of sentiment and permit its consideration primarily as an economic problem. In other words, the economic and social welfare of the United States should now ordinarily be the determining factor in the immigration policy of the Government.
Unlike Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, and other immigrant-receiving countries, the United States makes no effort to induce immigration. A law for the encouragement of immigration by guaranteeing in this country labor contracts made abroad was enacted in 1864 but repealed in 1868. Later legislation has tended. to prevent the introduction of contract laborers and assisted or induced immigration, the purpose of the Government being that the movement should be a natural one. The law respecting assisted immigration, however, does not deny the right of a person already in this country to send for an otherwise admissible relative or friend, and a large part of the present movement, especially from southern and eastern Europe, is made possible through such assistance. The immediate incentive of the great bulk of present-day immigration is the letters of persons in this country to relatives or friends at home. Comparatively few immigrants come without some reasonably definite assurance that employment awaits them, and it is probable that as a rule they know the nature of that employment and the rate of wages. A large number of immigrants are induced to come by quasi labor agents in this country, who combine the business of supplying laborers to large employers and contractors with the so-called immigrant banking business and the selling of steamship tickets.
Another important agency in promoting emigration from Europe to the United States is the many thousands of steamship-ticket agents and subagents operating in the emigrant-furnishing districts of southern and eastern Europe. Under the terms of the United States immigration law, as well as the laws of most European countries, the promotion of emigration is forbidden, but nevertheless the steamship-agent propaganda flourishes everywhere. It does not appear that the steamship lines as a rule openly direct the operations of these agents, but the existence of the propaganda is a matter of common knowledge in the emigrant-furnishing countries and, it is fair to assume, is acquiesced in, if not stimulated, by the steamship lines as well. With the steamship lines the transportation of steerage passengers is purely a commercial matter; moreover, the steerage business which originates in southern and eastern Europe is peculiarly attractive to the companies, as many of the immigrants travel back and forth, thus insuring east-bound as well as west-bound traffic.
IMMIGRATION OF DISEASED ALIENS.
Prior to 1882, when the federal Government first assumed control of immigration, the movement was practically unregulated. No process of selection was exercised among the immigrants who came between 1819 and 1882, and as a result the diseased, defective, delinquent, and dependent entered the country practically at will. With the development of federal immigration laws the situation in this respect has entirely changed, and while, unfortunately, the present law, from the difficulty in securing proof, is largely inefféctual in preventing the coming of criminals and other moral delinquents, it does effectively debar paupers and the physically unsound and generally the mentally unsound. The law provides that debarred aliens must be returned at the expense of the steamship companies, and also that companies bringing diseased persons of certain classes whose condition might have been detected at ports of embarkation shall be subjected to a fine of $100 in each case. Consequently the transportation of diseased aliens has become so unprofitable that steamship companies have inaugurated at foreign ports of embarkation a medical inspection of intending emigrants similar to that made at United States ports. As a result of the foreign inspection, in an ordinary year about four times as many intending emigrants are refused transportation for medical reasons alone as are debarred here for all causes, and about ten times as many as are debarred for medical reasons only. In the fiscal year 1907, 1,285,349 aliens were admitted to the United States, and only 4,040 were debarred because of physical and mental diseases." When it is considered that the great majority of all immigrants now come from countries where trachoma and other contagious diseases are prevalent among the emigrating classes, the relatively small number of rejections at United States ports is good evidence of the effectiveness of the steamship-company inspections.
It is highly desirable both for humanitarian and medical reasons that aliens who are not admissible to the United States should be turned back at foreign ports of embarkation, or better still, that they should not leave their homes for such ports only to be returned. It has been strongly urged by immigration officials and other students of the question that the embarkation at foreign ports of persons not admissible to the United States because of their physical condition would be more effectually prevented by a medical inspection by American officers at such ports. This plan was so strongly urged that this Government a few years ago made official inquiry respecting! the probable attitude of European Governments toward it. At that time one or two Governments expressed a willingness to permit such an inspection by American officials; others made indefinite replies to the inquiry, while others were positively opposed. No attempt was thereafter made to further the plan. After an investigation by the Commission of the situation at all the principal ports of Europe it is clear that even were its consummation possible, such an arrangement would not materially improve conditions. As a matter of fact American medical officers, in an advisory capacity, have conducted a medical inspection of emigrants at Italian ports for the past ten years and their recommendations invariably have been respected by
a See Vol. II, p. 734.
See pp. 95 and 111.
the steamship companies. A comparison of results at United States ports, however, shows that the proportion of aliens rejected here for medical reasons was somewhat larger among persons embarking at Italian ports than among those from several other European ports where the medical inspection was made solely by physicians employed by steamship companies. This is not a reflection on the work of American surgeons at Italian ports, which is highly efficient, but rather an illustration of the impossibility of making an absolutely effective medical inspection at foreign ports of embarkation. Considering the time that elapses between embarkation at European ports and arrival in the United States and the opportunities for surreptitiously avoiding inspection which frequently exist at European ports, it is clear that no medical inspection abroad, however thorough it might be, would obviate the necessity of a rigid inspection at United States ports.
It has been suggested that some system ought to be devised by which intending emigrants could be physically examined as to their admissibility to the United States before leaving their homes for ports of embarkation. While an effective arrangement of that nature would be of great benefit to the many thousands annually who are turned back at foreign ports of embarkation, it is a matter over which our Government has no jurisdiction.
Steamship companies should be held responsible for the transportation to United States ports of physically and mentally diseased aliens. That policy has been pursued since the first federal immigration law was enacted and it has increased in effectiveness accordingly as the bringing of such aliens became more unprofitable to the companies. The present law operates to secure a reasonably careful medical inspection by steamship companies at foreign ports of embarkation, but as circumstances vary materially in different cases, the law should be amended so as to retain the present fine as a minimum but permit the imposition of a fine not exceeding $500.
IMMIGRATION OF CRIMINALS.
While control of the immigration movement so far as physical and mental defectives are concerned has reached a high degree of efficiency, no adequate means have been adopted for preventing the immigration of criminals, prostitutes, and other morally undesirable aliens. The control of the latter classes is a much more difficult matter. In spite of the stringent law, criminals or moral defectives of any class, provided they pass the medical inspection, can usually embark at European ports and enter the United States without much danger of detection. A considerable number of criminals or aliens with criminal records are debarred annually at United States ports, but this results from the vigilance of immigrant inspectors or from chance information rather than from our system of regulation.
While it does not appear from available statistics that criminality among the foreign-born increases the volume of crime in proportion to the total population, nevertheless the coming of criminals and persons of criminal tendencies constitutes one of the serious social effects of the immigration movement. The present immigration law is not adequate to prevent the immigration of criminals, nor is it sufficiently effective as regards the deportation of alien criminals who are in this country. The effective exclusion of criminals merely by
means of inspection at United States ports of entry obviously is impossible, and the movement can not be satisfactorily controlled in the absence of definite knowledge respecting the alien's criminal record in the country from which he comes.
Several years ago the Italian Government decided to assist in enforcing the provisions of our law by refusing to issue passports to criminals subject to exclusion here. Subsequently this was enacted as a part of the Italian emigration law. As passports are not demanded at our ports, the benefit of this act of comity has not been great, for though Italian criminals can not embark at Italian ports, they can and do come through the ports of other countries. No apparent attempt has been made on the part of our Government to treat this attitude on the part of the Italian Government as a basis for negotiations to secure an agreement which might have produced more practical results.
While in Italy the Commission investigated the operation of this Italian statute and found that in the main it was enforced, though in some instances acts of minor officials resulted in giving passports to criminals.
Members of the Commission found an apparent willingness on the part not only of the Italian, but of other Governments, to cooperate with us, by governmental action, in the enforcement of our immigration laws. The best place to bar alien criminals is in their own countries, and the best way is through the utilization of the police records of such countries. Aliens from countries where adequate records are kept should be admitted only upon the production of proper certificates showing an absence of convictions for excludable crimes. If this is done, the alien criminal can be largely barred. Under the immigration act of 1907 the President is authorized to send commissioners to foreign countries for the purpose of entering into agreements with such countries to prevent the evasion of the laws governing immigration to the United States. Such agreement with the principal countries from which immigration comes is the best method through which to secure the desired result.
IMMIGRATION OF THE MENTALLY DEFECTIVE.
The immigration of mentally defective aliens is reasonably well controlled under the existing immigration law. The law provides for the exclusion of insane persons, persons who have been insane within five years, and persons who have had two attacks of insanity at any time previously. Owing to the nature of mental diseases, they are not easily detected through such necessarily limited inspection as can be made at ports of arrival. When the least evidence of mental disease is exhibited by an arriving alien, such alien invariably is held for observation until his mental condition is determined. It is entirely possible, however, that persons may exhibit no evidence of insanity and yet that they may become insane within a short time after their admission. Such cases have occurred and the matter has given rise to considerable apprehension. Until some means can be devised of informing the immigration authorities as to the previous mental history of arriving aliens, the present safeguards are practically all that can be afforded, unless all arriving
a See Vol. II, p. 743.
See Vol. II, p. 732.