Menu JTA Search

Plans Completed for Alien Registration Beginning Aug. 27; ‘witch Hunt’ Barred

Registration and fingerprinting of 3,600,000 aliens in the United States will begin at post offices throughout the country Aug. 27 and all aliens unregistered by Dec. 26, or who make registration statements known to be false, will face a six-month jail term, it was announced today by Earl G. Harrison, director of registration, and Solicitor General Fracis Biddle.

Aliens will be required to answer 15 questions, including how and when they arrived in this country, what clubs and organizations they are members of and whether they had had military training. The fifteenth question, directed at fifth columnists, asks the alien whether within the last five years he has been “affiliated with or active in organizations devoted in whole or in part to influencing or furthering the political activities, public relations or public policy of a foreign Government.”

Harrison, noted Philadelphia lawyer, who accepted the immense job of conducting the registration only on the condition that no “witch hunt” of aliens will be tolerated, emphasized that the registration “does not carry with it any stigma or implication of hostility towards those who, while they may not be citizens, are loyal to this country and its institutions. Most of the aliens in this country are people who came here because they believed and had faith in the principles of American democracy and they are entitled to, and must receive, full protection of the law.

“We should remember that all Americans were at one time or another immigrants from other lands. The genius of many countries, the ancient aspirations of many races have been built into what is America. Unfortunately, there are some foreigners who are disloyal to America, and who do not wish to accept our ways, and who use freedom of speech and of the press to formant disunity and sedition. These persons we will apprehend, but will also see to it that loyal American aliens are not unjustly condemned for the disloyal behavior of a few. Our registration will be their protection.”

Harrison said that whenever a case of an alien having entered the country illegally is discovered “that case will be decided individually on its merits.”

Biddle was asked: “What of the political and religious refugees who, while they may have entered the country illegally, still would face death if they were deported?” He said: “Of course, there is really no way to deport these people. There is no place for them to go.”

THE MACHINERY OF THE REGISTRATION WILL RUN LIKE THIS:

Nearly six million blank forms will be distributed from every post office beginning Aug. 15. These the alien is to take home and study, filling in each question for himself, with the help of any records he has at his home. When he returns to the post office he will be fingerprinted and his answers to the questions will be taken orally and written by post office employes, who are instructed to conduct no examination of the alien.

The records are then transferred to a special file within the Department of Justice, which will be held confidential except to the Department. Two of the questions compel aliens to list their police records and aliases, if any, the fingerprint cards will be checked with the files of the Department’s criminal division.

Child aliens are not required to register until they reach the age of 14. Certificates will be mailed to all aliens after registration. They will not be required to keep these certificates on their persons.

Harrison particularly warned that registrations and fingerprints could only be taken at a post office. No private individuals are authorized to take them. Rackets have sprung up already, he said, by which aliens have been victimized by persons claiming to be “authorized” to accept registrations.

Already, too, Harrison added, there have been cases of “spying” by gossipy or malicious neighbors of aliens, and he reiterated that such “witch hunting” would not be countenanced.

Registration blanks will be printed in six languages, including Yiddish.

Harrison called attention to the fact that the law requires all aliens, once registered, to notify the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization of any change of residence within five days.

NEXT STORY