Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

J.D.B. News Letter

December 7, 1928
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Labor Department Submits Recommendations for New Immigration Legislation By Our Washington Correspondent

The annual report of Secretary of Labor Davis to Congress made public here today fails to recommend any substantial liberalization of the present immigration law. On the other hand Secretary Davis repeats his recommendation of last year in favor of the registration of all aliens in the United States.

“In order that the status of all aliens in the United States may be known, particularly so that the Government may be helpful to them through the Bureau of Naturalization, an alien census or enrollment should be taken and such enrollment could be made the basic evidence of legal domicile for naturalization purposes,” Secretary Davis states. “All aliens who arrived prior to June 30, 1924, the effective date of the present quota law, could then be given a legal status for permanent residence. Hundreds of thousands of aliens in the United States now ineligible could be reached for naturalization purposes if an enrollment plan were carried out and the enrollment certificate made the basis of naturalization in place of the declaration of intention now required. An enrollment of all aliens made by Act of Congress prima facie evidence of lawful arrival in the United States; if prior to 1924, would make available to them facilities for Americanization and citizenship.”

A brand-new and far more startling proposal, however, in the form of a “citizenship test” is made by Commissioner General of Immigration Hull in his annual report to the Secretary of Labor, also made public here. Commissioner Hull proposes that “Appropriate adapatability tests be authorized. with a view to determine whether an alien applying for admission to the United States is good citizen material and that authority be granted to exclude from admission those failing in such tests.” Commissioner Hull does not in his report explain what manner of tests he has in mind or to give his reasons for such a proposal. Secretary Davis is silent in his report on Commissioner Hull’s extraordinary plan, which would vest almost unlimited powers of exclusion in immigration officials.

The following additional recommendations for amendment to the immigration law are made by Secretary Davis: That an American citizen be allowed to bring his fiancee to the United States for the purpose of marriage, without the necessity of going abroad for the marriage. To prevent fraud, the admission would be made under bond and penalty of deportation if the marriage is not consummated; that husbands of American citizens be admitted exempt from quota regardless of the date of marriage. At present only husbands of citizens who were married prior to May 31, 1928, are exempt from the quota; that examinations of aliens be made aboard the larger steamers while en route to the United States, instead of waiting until arrival at an American port, particularly the port of New York. Secretary Davis points out that such examinations would greatly facilitate the landing of aliens upon arrival and avoid the delay which now occurs.

Secretary Davis also makes a number of recommendations for changes in the naturalization laws, among which the most important is one for legalization of the residence of aliens who entered this country prior to June 3, 1921, if since their entry they have resided continuously in the United States and have been of good moral character.

Secretary Davis also recommends that certificates of citizenship be issued to those who have derived citizenship through the naturalization of others, like the child of a parent who became naturalized during the child’s minority. At present the only certificate issued is the one to the parent, but the child has no independent evidence of his citizenship.

Secretary Davis ignored a number of recommendations made by Commissioner Hull, in addition to the “citizenship test” already mentioned. Among these recommendations, which would liberalize the immigration law, are the following: That a non-quota status be accorded dependent parents over 60 years of age of American citizens. “The number who would benefit by this modification of existing law is not large and considerations of humanity fully support the recommendation.” Commissioner Hull states. That a general discretion be vested in the Secretary of Labor to re-admit expatriated naturalized citizens. That authority be granted to the Commissioner General of Immigration, with the approval of the Secretary of Labor, to admit step-children of American citizens. That the Secretary of Labor be given broader powers to admit aliens in cases of hardship-political refugees, artists and “intellectual geniuses,” and the wives of aliens admitted for permanent residence prior to July 1, 1924, who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States. “With wise limitations and restrictions, this power can be safely conferred without danger of abuse.” declares Commissioner Hull.

Congressman Emanuel Celler issued a statement following the issuance of Secretary Davis’s report, criticizing the Secretary for omitting reference to the Order calling for identification cards for newly arrived immigrants.

“The 1928 report of Secretary of Labor Davis omits all reference to General Order No. 106, effective July 1st, 1928, calling for the issuance of ‘Identification Cards’ for newly arriving aliens, which cards are issued by American Consuls abroad to be initialled by Immigration Inspectors at the Ports of Entry,” Congressman Celler declared. “These cards are to contain the name and description of the immigrant and his photograph. The Secretary has previously stated that these cards when held by the immigrant would be a means of continual identification, and thus would afford protection to the immigrant.

“This order has been in effect since July 1st. The Department of Labor had no authority to issue that order, which, in reality, is a sugar coated form of registration of aliens, Bills to register aliens have been offered by the score, but each succeeding Congress has refused to pass such a measure. Yet, Mr. Davis issued an order embodying compulsory registration-by what right, I do not know.

“There is nothing in the Immigration Act of 1924 and acts amendatory thereto which authorize such registration order. The order, in my opinion, is illegal. It is unenforceable. No alien need obey it. I advise each alien to refuse to carry the identification card.

“Apparently, Mr. Davis, knowing the outspoken opposition of the American Federation of Labor to registration, has refrained from mentioning General Order No. 106 in his report. This order, issued in July, was perhaps, only a trial ballon but drew so much fire that Mr. Davis has agreed to discard it. I hope so, Because registration of aliens is un-American and smacks too much of Czaristic espionage. It violates all treaties and is repugnant to the Constitution,” Congressman Celler declared.

The House Immigration Committee met yesterday and discussed Secretary Davis’s emergency request for legislation regarding daily admission of aliens for work across the Canadian border, but reached no decision. It was not indicated when the next meeting of the Committee will be held.

Recommended from JTA