Secretary of Labor Davis Named As Author of Blease Voluntary Registration Bill at Senate Committee H
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Secretary of Labor Davis Named As Author of Blease Voluntary Registration Bill at Senate Committee H

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The hearing on the Blease voluntary registration bill was railroaded through the Senate committee on immigration yesterday by Chairman Gould within about an hour by cutting down to a few minutes each the time of those witnesses who were permitted to make statements and by depriving many who appeared for the purpose of testifying of the opportunity of making any oral statement. At the conclusion of the hearing, Senator Gould announced that these would be allowed five days to file written statements and the others to amplify their oral statements for the printed report of the hearings.

With Senators Copeland, Gould and Blease the only members of the committee present it seemed to be the unanimous opinion of all who appeared in opposition to the Blease bill that the hearing was a fiasco in view of the high pressure methods adopted by Chairman Gould, and which were were aggravated by the inadequate size of the hearing room. About 50 people were crowded into the room which could comfortably accommodate about ten. The utter disregard shown for proper arrangements caused great surprise and resentment among those who attended.


Senator Copeland remonstrated rather freely at Senator Gould’s railroading methods. Following the hearing, opponents of the bill expressed uneasiness as to whether the interests of the alien population are receiving proper attention from those who are expected to look after them. In the course of the brief session Senator Blease disclosed that he himself was not the author of the bill, terming it “really an administration proposal” which he had introduced two years ago at the request of Secretary of Labor Davis and who requested him to reintroduce it recently. Senator Blease declared that he did not see how “any honest man can oppose this bill.”


Secretary Davis was present at the hearing but he did not testify, sitting in the ante-room most of the time, evidently out of fear that connection of his name with alien registration would harm his political ambitions in Pennsylvania where he is bucking the Mellon machine for United States Senator. He paused on leaving to make an unsolicited statement after the hearing to the newspapermen in which he vehemently declared that he and his department were opposed to any bill “smacking of espionage,” implying that registration bills are not within this category or else directly contradicting the statement made by Senator Watson, Republican majority leader, that Davis and he were the original authors of the compulsory registration plan.

Asked by newspapermen whether the Blease bill would not ultimately lead to compulsory registration by introducing the custom of registration cards, Secretary Davis replied “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.”


Assistant secretary of labor Husband for the administration in support of the bill, declaring that it has arisen out of the demand of the aliens themselves for some paper to be issued to them to show that they are legally in the United States. He explained the opposition to the bill as coming not from the aliens but “from a few people representing themselves to be friends of the aliens who think they should not have what they want.”

Mr. Husband denied that the Blease measure is a registration bill in view of the fact that only those who have already been registered as legal entrants at the ports are eligible to receive certificates of admission. He declared that immigrant identification cards are highly prized by their holders as evidence of their right to be in the United States. Never had he heard of an alien, he said, who objected to the issuance of the card.


Among the most important witnesses appearing against the bill were Amos Pinchot, representing the American Civil Liberties Union, Max J. Kohler for the American Jewish Committee, and former Congressman Perlman, grand master of the Independent Order of Brith Abraham, for the American Jewish Congress. Mr. Pinchot said that one of the principal objections to the bill was the danger that it would later become compulsory by amendment and he expressed the opinion that registration would be but the beginning of a dossier system in the United States. He also said that it would hamper aliens in various way, and set up a bar between aliens and citizens. Pointing out that he appeared as a believer in old-fashioned principles of Americanism, Mr. Pinchot said he thought the measure unwise and contrary to principles of Americanism.


Max J. Kohler declared that the inability to produce a registration certificate will give rise to the inference or suspicion of illegal presence which the immigration authorities are likely to invoke as justification for starting deportation proceedings in which under the law the burden of proof is on the alien. He predicted a similar evil to that which arose under the Chinese registration laws. Calling attention to and attacking the immigrant identification cards now issued at the ports of entrance, Mr. Kohler asserted that the obvious purpose of these cards is that their absence “would create presumptive evidence against the person who was found without it.” He also said that the Blease bill cannot be taken by itself but should be read in the light of preceding compulsory bills and no doubt was an entering wedge.

Former Congressman Perlman warned the committee of “an espionage system that would almost equal that under Czarism in Russia” if alien registration is adopted. Reid Lewis, chairman of the Foreign Language Information Service, in opposing the bill, said that while in form it is voluntary, in effect it is compulsory and will be used in such a way as to make it not only unwise but dangerous because various administrative means would be adopted to force aliens to register and inevitably that bill would become compulsory.

Mr. Reid called attention to appeals by Secretary of Labor Davis for several years past that employers should hire only aliens who have been legally admitted to the United States and pointed out that with the passage of the pending bill employers could demand a certificate of admission as proof of legal entry. He said that this in principle at least would make the law one of compulsory registration and the proposal would subject innocent people to annoyance and embarrassment while at the same time it was really ineffective to detect illegally entering aliens because they do not have to register.


Reverend Thomas Burgess of New York, appeared on behalf of the Episcopal Church in opposition to the bill. As national officer in charge of work with the foreign born he stated that his experience had taught him that in correction and Americanization work anything tending to segregate aliens is harmful to Americanization. He said he found sympathy for the alien the greatest aid towards Americanization but that this bill would segregate and therefore injure Americanization.

Dr. S. Margoshes, editor of “The Day,” and Salvatore M. Pino, manager of “II Progresso Italo-Americano,” appeared for their respective papers and for the Foreign Language Newspaper Conference. They announced their intention of filing statements with the committee as did also Joseph Schlossberg, general secretary of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.

Mrs. Mark Landsburgh, of Washington, representing the National Council of Jewish Women, filed a statement declaring that the Council at its last convention, in Los Angeles, passed a resolution opposing all forms of alien registration and that the resolution had been previously considered by all sections of the Council with a total membership of 50,000. Among others who were present in opposition to the bill and indicated their intention of filing statements, were Congressmen Adolph Sabath of Chicago and Samuel Dickstein of New York, and Maurice D. Rosenberg for the B’nai B’rith. William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, was also present as an interested listener.

John B. Trevor, secretary of the New York State Chamber of Commerce, and an officer in a number of patriotic organizations, as well as president of the American Coalition. “an organization to coordinate patriotic efforts and keep America American,” who represented various patriotic organizations, told the committee that “all feel as Senator Blease does about the proposal that there is no reason why an honest man should object to registration. American citizens registered in one way or another from the cradle to the grave.”

Among the advantages he cited for the bill are protection of American labor from the unfair competition of bootlegged aliens, protection of public health, protection of the country from the secret propaganda of a commission of foreign states “which are really at war with organized society and are creating discontent and dissatisfaction.” He thought that compulsory registration of aliens was the logical supplement to the restrictive immigration policy of the United States.

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