Washington (Mar. 27)
(By our Washington correspondent)
A debate on “Immigration and American Ideals” between Senator David A. Reed of Pennsylvania, father of the National Origins plan, and Representative Samuel Dickstein, New York Jewish Congressman, has appeared in the last two numbers of the “Docket,” a legal magazine widely read by attorneys, published by West Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minn.
“There is a marked tendency on the part of some elements of our nation at this time, when the effect of our immigration law is commanding considerable attention, to think less for the future of America than for the immediate convenience of some European country from which they or their fathers came to make their homes here,” Senator Reed writes, and continues:
“There is unquestionably a population problem in many of the countries of Europe, and it is perhaps only natural that their natives in America should seek to alleviate the possible consequences in the countries of their origin by maintaining the largest possible outlet for this surplus here. But what, if their will is to prevail, will happen to America? As the situation stands at present, we are confronted with a mass of alienage, accumulated during the past three decades, that will tax the capacity of our Americanization agencies for years to come. Moreover, the time is not far distant, probably not more than a generation or two at the most, when this country itself will have to solve a surplus population problem similar to that now harrying Europe. It is the concensus of eminent biologists that the population of the United States, without any outside additions whatever, will double in sixty years. That means a population of two hundred twenty million by 1950, plus the very considerable additions even now entering the country annually, and their increase.
“It is hard for us to realize, we of the twentieth century, that in the first two hundred fifty years after Columbus came there were only eighty thousand immigrants to the territory that is now called the United States. It is hard for us to realize that even during the famine in Ireland and the political upheaval in Germany, which caused the great migrations of the middle of the last century, the decade that preceded the Civil War, we received only about three million immigrants, because in our lifetime the flood has come so much more rapidly.
“The statistics show that, beginning with 1890, and running down ceaselessly, until the World War interrupted it, we took over seventeen million aliens into this country, and the moment the Armistice came, and it became possible for men to migrate here, again we took in five million before we put up the bars in 1924; twenty-two million and a half, almost a quarter of the present population of the United States, born outside of the United States, and most of them in countries in which there is not today even a semblance of selfgovernment.
“Is it a wonder that thoughtful men began to feel that, if that process continued, the bulk of the population in America would cease to know how to govern itself? Is it a wonder that people began to tremble for the presevvation of what we know as American standards, American conceptions of right living conditions and right civic conditions? It is only when we think of those portentous figures that we realize what the problem was when we began to set up our restrictive legislation.
“Think what it means to the material welfare of America. If we attempt to uphold a wage level where a common laborer receives about five dollars a day, if we are to interpose no barrier, except the cost of a steamship ticket, against those countries where common labor is paid as it is today, about seventy cents a day in South Europe and Eastern Europe, it is perfectly obvious, from the simplest laws of hydraulics, that their masses are going to flow to our rich country. It is perfectly obvious that, when they come, they will take the places now occupied by Americans, or by their competition for those places will drive down the American wage levels.
“On the first day of this year there were one million five hundred thousand applicants for admission to the United States registered with our European consulates. Imagine the effect upon American life if we were suddenly to permit this tremendous migration from Jugoslavia, Greece, and the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, from Russia, Hungary, and other countries.
“Somebody owns this country. Either we own it, or they do; and we got here first. We must realize that the America of the future, the America of our grandchildren, cannot exist in the form in which America stands today, unless we will keep America for the Americans and suffice ourselves with the adequate population we have here today. We have tasks enough, without introducing vast groups, who are alien to our language, alien to our political institutions, alien to our habits of life, alien to everything that we hold dear, and, if we depart from that system, then I think that more than in any other way we will jeopardize that America for our grandchildren,” Senator Reed decares.
Congressman Dickstein in his reply attacks the theories of Senator Reed. “The problem is by no means free from complications, and its solution is by no means as simple as Senator Reed attempts to make it in his article,” Dickstein declares.
“In addition to the problem itself, there is always the question of an adjustment to be made by those who by the ties of bood and kinship are related to the immigrant, and the solution of the immigration problem requires principally a full determination as to what effect, if any, our policy can have on those who have a right to humane consideration of their own peculiar position in any matter affecting the welfare of their families.
“I fully agree with Senator Reed’s emark that immigration in this country should be limited in some way. The trouble, however, with the existing law is that it seeks to limit immigration into the United States not by quality but by number and particularly it ignores the fact that no particular race or group is in any way superior to any of the classes or groups.
“The obvious purpose of this discrimination is the adoption of an unfounded anthropological theory that the nations which are favored are the progency of fictitious and hitherto unsuspected Nordic ancestors, while those discriminated against are not classified as belonging to that mythical ancestral stock. No scientific evidence worthy of consideration was introduced to substantiate the pseudoscientific proposition. It is pure fiction and the creation of a journalistic imagination. All we know is that these immigrants are all human beings, and none of them is regarded by the majority of the Committee as undesirable so long as they meet the test of the Act of 1917.
“Those who in the past have been admitted into this country, whether born in one part of Europe or another, have been industrious and useful accessions to our population. Many of them have become citizens and have performed their civic duties and during the war entered our Army and Navy in large numbers and were loyal to our Government. Their children whether they were born in this country or arrived here at an early age, have been trained in our public schools and can rarely be distinguished from native Americans of elder generations. Those who have come from the lands upon which a bar sinister is to be imposed have made valuable contributions to science, art and literature, to a hundred different industries, to every imaginable form of commerce, and have performed much of the heavy work in our mines, furnaces, manufactories, farms, and forests, upon our railroads, and other public works. Without them our material progress would not have been as rapid as it has proved to be; and they are needed today as they have been in the past. It is closing our eyes to known facts to suggest that this country, large sections of which are sparsely populated and whose development has not even begun, can not absorb additional immigrants, and that hereafter only men of certain types or of certain creeds or nationalities may be added to our great army of workers,” Congressman Dickstein stated.