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President Coolidge Asks Commission to Suspend Work on National Origin Quotas

President Coolidge has requested the commission, composed of the Secretaries of State, Commerce and Labor, in charge of the devising of new quotas, to suspend work for the time being. This action of the President came as a result of the discovery on the part of government experts that the “national origin” provision of the Immigration Act of 1924 would have the effect of reducing immigration from the countries of Northern Europe, contrary to the purposes sought by some of the framers of the law.

The “national origin” plan will become effective July 1, if proclaimed by the President. Some believe the President will ask its repeal.

Subdivision (A) of Section 11 of the law of 1924 which is in effect already, provides that the annual quota shall be 2 per cent of the number of foreign-born individuals of such nationality resident in continental United States as determined by the 1890 census. The minimum quota in any case is not to be less than 100. Under this there is an annual admission of 154,000 immigrants.

Subdivision (B) of the same section contemplates a new plan under which the world is divided into geographical areas and admissions are based on the number of inhabitants in continental United States in 1920 whose origin by birth or ancestry is attributable to these geographic areas. This plan would reduce the number of quota immigrants to 150,000. The commission already mentioned, under the law, determines “national origin.” It reports its findings to the President and the President is required to proclaim the quotas reported. There is difference of opinion whether the enforcement of the “national” law is discretionary or mandatory so far as the President is concerned. The Secretary of State is said to have given an informal opinion that it is mandatory. The annual report of the Commissioner General of Immigration in 1927 recommended its repeal.

The national origin method, officials find, would reduce immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Scandinavia, while increasing quotas from Russia, Italy and England. This is not the effect Congress had in view when it sanctioned the provision.

About 496,000 aliens come into the United States annually, 164,000 being quota immigrants, 150,000 non-quota and the rest classes known as nonimmigrants. More than 221,000 depart annually.

Should the provision go unrepealed the President could make it a dead letter by deciding the law as not mandatory and refusing to issue a proclamation. It is understood the Department of Justice is studying the legal question whether the law is binding on the President.

Senator Shipstead of Minnesota, has a bill to repeal the “national origin” provision. He already has been given a hearing on it by the Senate Commitee on Immigration. Strong opposition exists against the bill among the Scandinavian peoples and it was at the instance of organizations of Scandinavians that Senator Shipstead offered his measure.

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