Washington (Apr. 17)
The Senate late today, by a majority vote, adopted 2% of the 1890 census as the quota for immigration from the time the bill may become law until July 1st, 1927, at the expiration of which period, the Reed national origins plan, passed yesterday, will go into effect. Under this basis the total number of immigrants admissible per year will be about 162,000, or a reduction from the present law of over one-half.
The final vote today, adopting 2% of 1890, came after a very peculiar parliamentary situation had arisen. The first vote taken was on Senator Willis’ amendment to reduce the quota under the present bill to 1% of 1910, instead of two percent as reported by the Committee. This reduction was in accordance with Monday’s Republican caucus decision, and was passed by a big majority. Later Senator Harrison of Mississippi, still intent on substituting the 1890 census, offered an amendment to that effect, which was passed by a vote of 47 to 32. In this way the Senate adopted the 1890 census. However, the situation thus resulting called for only a 1% quota, and Senator Wadsworth of New York, apparently thinking 1% of 1890 as going too far, there-upon, offered an amendment to increase the percentage to 2%, which was passed by a vote of 56 to 23.
Senator Sterling’s racial group apportionment plan, which will have the effect of practically cutting off Jewish immigration, and is so intended, did not come up for a vote today, but Sterling stated tonight that he is as determined as ever to push this amendment and will present it for a vote tomorrow. He reiterated that Senator Reed of Pennsylvania had approved the amendment and promised to support it; although when asked about this tonight, Reed was non-committal and declined to indicate his position.
By a late unanimous decision taken by the Senate today, just prior to adjournment, debate tomorrow has been restricted for each Senator to ten minutes on each amendment. The friends of immigration may benefit by the inability of Sterling and other supporters of the racial group plan to speak at length because of this limitation; on the other hand the debate restriction may have just the opposite effect and cripple an effective attack by immigration friends.
Senator Walsh of Massachusetts and Senators Copeland and Colt seem to have awakened to the terrible danger to the Jews inherent in this proposal, and are preparing to oppose it vigorously when it comes up.
The opposition to extreme restriction in the Senate is very weak. Senator Copeland succeeded in mustering only eight votes for his amendment, voted upon today, to retain the present 3% of 1910 quota.
The Sterling plan is the only big important remaining point left to be voted upon by the Senate for final disposition of the immigration bill, except an amendment of Senator Simmons of North Carolina to give agricultural laborers a preference of 25% in the quotas. This would cut down Jewish immigration still more as so few Jews are agriculturists.
It is practically certain that the Senate will finish with the immigration bill tomorrow. It will now be easy for the Senate to unite with the House because the national origins basis is even more discriminatory than 2% of 1890, and will fully meet the satisfaction of the House restrictionists. It is also extremely doubtful whether the House will insist, in the forth-coming negotiations with the Senate, on the retention of the House relative exemption provision, to which the Senate is opposed.
Senator Copeland, in a lengthy speech supporting his amendment to retain the existing 3% quota, made a special defense of the Jews, and pleaded with the Senators to keep open America as an asylum for them. “The Jews,” he said, “have been in New York since 1654. Peter Stuyvesant admitted the first Jewish settlers only on their oath that they would forever maintain their own people without becoming a charge upon the community. To the honor of the Jewish population of New York City, they have never broken their vow.
“I have noticed the custom of the Senate to speak of” my ancestors who came over in the Mayflower. Mine did and mine too were 100% American, but some of these descendants have forgotten why their forefathers left their native lauds on the Mayflower. Because of persecution abroad they came and found an asylum here.
“The Jews are among our leading citizens. I am a Democrat, but remember that the Republic boss in New York is Sam Koenig, a Jew, and a good man too despite his politics. The Jews are the major users of our libraries, the leading students in our educational institutions. Among our distinguished citizens are Morgenthau, Adoph Lewisohn, Oscar and nathan Straus, the latter the greatest living benefactor of this generation.
“We cannot afford to shut the gates to the downtrodden and oppressed unless we repudiate our history and national origin. We could well afford to be a little more generous at least and continue the 3% quota for a few more years.”
Senator Copeland based his plea for an asylum on a graphic description of the terrible conditions in Eastern Europe which he visited recently, but his picture was so gloomy that it probably had the opposite effect intended on his restrictionist colleagues. For example, the Senator declared that he found on his trip that everybody in Eastern Europe, wanted to come to the United States; that he did not see anybody who didn’t. This is exactly the arguments that the immigration restrictionists have been using.
Senator Colt also made a vigorous speech attacking the 1890 census, but all these efforts were futile.