Chairman, House Immigration Committee
Many people have asked me, by mail and in person, whether it would not be possible for the United States to come to the rescue of at least a part of the persecuted German Jews by admitting them to this country, and at the same time not interfere with the present immigration laws. This very important question has engaged my mind since the very first days of the Hitler regime, which has instituted a reign of terror against the Jews of Germany.
Knowing the liberal traditions of this country in affording a haven of refuge to political refugees from all lands, I was quite certain that the present Roosevelt administration, with its liberal tendencies, would follow in the footsteps of its predecessors. It was therefore my firm belief that it was within reason to expect that the present administration would adopt a lenient policy in admitting some of our persecuted brothers in Germany.
In order to carry this out, it was absolutely essential that the Jews of the United States should present a united front. I am thoroughly convinced that with proper representations of a united Jewry before the government, a move might have been made by the administration whereby a considerable number of German Jewish refugees could have entered this country.
THE NECESSARY MOVE
Moreover, the right to admit such immigrants is vested in the administration, does not interfere with the present immigration laws, and does not require the passage of special legislation on the part of congress.
All that would have been necessary was that the Secretary of State direct the American consuls abroad to disregard the presidential order of September 8, 1930, which instructed them to cut down drastically the issuance of visas to all immigrants, and revert to the provisions of the law in force prior to that date in examining applicants for immigration visas.
This decree of President Hoover gave the consuls abroad unlimited power. It led to the arbitrary refusal of admission to relatives of American citizens entitled to enter, resulting in the separation of families and in untold hardships. This decree, now still in effect, has excluded from the United States hundreds of children, wives and parents of American citizens, at present subjected to religious and political persecution in Germany, and who have been compelled to take refuge in other parts of the world, although their American families here are well able to protect and care for them.
25,000 VISAS WITHHELD
The consuls abroad have utilized this arbitrary power, granted to them by the Hoover order, to such an extent that in the case of Germany, for instance, 97 percent of the quota of that country was held back.
The figures just released by the State Department show that 24,961 visas of the allotted quota in Germany have thus far been kept back during the fiscal year, which ends June 30.
It is quite possible that with proper representations the government would have been moved to instruct its consuls abroad to grant this vast number of unutilized visas, within the allotted quota, to refugees from German persecution.
Realizing this possibility, as far back as March 21st of this year, two weeks after the advent of the Hitler regime, I introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives, in which I requested suspension of the Hoover decree. I had in mind the fact that by revoking this order the number of visas kept back would have easily been utilized for admitting as many Jewish immigrants from Germany.
DIVISION IN THE RANKS
Unfortunately, differences of opinion in the attitude to be adopted towards the situation in Germany have caused dissension in American Jewry and has thus made difficult proper representations to the government for immediate action in behalf of the persecuted Jews, who have been looking towards America as a haven of refuge. While I have received a number of letters from some Jewish leaders advising me to act hastily in the matter, others have urged me to the contrary.
This dual attitude has placed the Jewish members of Congress in a predicament, though lately a move was made to reconcile all forces and to create a united front. In view of this, the eleven Jewish members of Congress met recently and decided to call upon the President with a view to ameliorating the situation by putting aside the Hoover decree and so removing the difficulties in granting the visas, within the present immigration laws, to the unfortunate victims of the Nazi persecution. Unfortunately, Congress adjourned two days later and the President left the capitol.
NOT TOO LATE TO ACT
However, I am of the opinion that it is still not too late for action. Palpable evidence of a united front on the part of American Jewry would go a long way in dealing with this vital problem, confronting our people today.
I have already mentioned above that the 24,961 visas which were held back during the past year by the American consuls in Germany in accordance with the Hoover decree, could have been granted to the persecuted German Jews. But this number could have been easily increased by about 12,000 additional visas, which were held back from the quotas of Poland, Russia, Austria and Czechoslovakia. These 12,000 visas could have been utilized by the Jewish subjects of these respective countries now residing in Germany, who are suffering even more than the native German Jews.
I am quite certain that with proper representation the President might also issue an order by which thousands of persecuted German Jews might come in as visitors to this country, in addition to those admitted through visas on the allotted quotas.
However, no matter what steps may be taken in the near future to solve this problem, I have reason to believe that within a few days the Department of State will send instructions to its consuls in Germany to adopt a more lenient policy in granting visas to families of American citizens.
It sems to me that it would have been of great service to the German Jews desiring to come to the U. S., if a representative of a responsible American Jewish organization would go over to Germany and watch closely the way the American consulates handle the issuing of visas to those Jewish applicants. Many a hardship could have been avoided and unnecessary formalities could have been spared if such a representative were at hand to facilitate matters.