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Alien Quota Law Assailed by Senator Colt As Senate Hearing Opens

February 28, 1924
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Opponents of the Johnson Immigration Bill and the arbitrary selection of the census of 1890 as a basis for fixing quotas under that law were given added reason on Wednesday to hope for the defeat of the measure in Congress. Developments of the day included statements from Senator LeBaron B. Colt, Chairman of the Senate Immigration Committee, and William H. Butler of Boston, manager of President Coolidge’s campaign for election to the White House and himself a candidate for United States Senator from Massachusetts, both of whom denounced the proposed legislation.

Senator Colt’s statement is of particular importance inasmuch as it forecasts in a measure the action which it seems practically assured will be taken by the Senate Immigration Committee, which began its deliberations today. Reports in well-informed circles today were to the effect that the Committee would vote before adjourning today on the proposal to substitute the census of 1890 for that of 1910 as a basis of operation of the present 3 percent. quota law. It appears altogether probable that the committee will reject the proposal.

Senator Colt’s statement expresses vigorous opposition to the 1890 census standard and supports the contention that the present law is fair and sufficiently regulates immigration. The statement was prepared for the Senate Committee’s consideration and copies of it is forwarded to Secretary of State Hughes and members of the House Immigration Committee. The statement in part follow:

“The grave objection to the 1890 census as a quota basis is due to the fact that the great volume of immigrants from Northern and Western Europe came to this country before 1890, and the great volume of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe came to this country after 1890, and hence a quota immigration percentage law based on the number of each racial group in the country according to the census of 1890 will necessarily result in a wide discrimination, approaching in some instances almost to exclusion, against the racial groups from Southern and Eastern Europe.

The present quota law adopted a different principle and under it there is no such discrimination. It sought to base the quota on the number of each racial group now in the country. The present quota law has achieved its purpose. It positively regulates the number of aliens Admitted. It can increase or decrease the number at any time by simply changing the percentage.

“We must not forget that an immigrant is an international as well as a national unit, and that foreign Governments view this change with deep concern. Nor should we forget that nothing so arouses feelings of resentment and intensifies racial unity as racial discrimination, and that we have millions of these racial groups in this country whom we want to assimilate and make patriotic American citizens”.

Unqualified opposition to the census of 1890 as a basis for the computation of quotas is included in a statement made by William H. Butler, President Coolidge’s campaign manager, who made it clear, however, that he spoke for himself as an American citizen giving expression to his own personal view. Mr. Butler said that it is not to the best interests of the nation to draw her immigrants from one or two or three countries, but rather to draw immigrants proportionately from every land. He expressed the belief that Congress will not adopt the 1890 provision. The Butler statement was made to members the Massachusetts Jewish delegation which had called on President Coolidge, Senator Lodge, Speaker Gillette and other Massachusetts Congress the day before.

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