As of tomorrow, American citizens will be divided into two distinct categories for the first time in the history of the United States as a result of the entering into effect of the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act which introduces legal distinctions between native-born and naturalized Americans.
The new immigration act will practically put an end to the glorious chapter of Jewish immigration to the United States. While opening the doors wide to former Nazis, the new law would make admission to this country practically impossible for Jews and others born in countries which have a small immigration quota. The immigration quotas of some of these countries have been “mortgaged” for as many as 50 and 60 years to make up for the 300,000 DP’s admitted into the United States during the last three years.
The new immigration law, which has been described as “America’s first Nuremberg law” and has been condemned by President Truman as “racial,” is considered by Jewish organizations to be potentially dangerous to Jews because its complex provisions include such innovations as accepting the findings of Nazi courts. President Truman, in his overridden veto of the law, described it as fraught with dangers to minorities and warned that its enactment would substitute “totalitarian vengeance for democratic justice.” The law provides for exclusion, denaturalization, and deportation on vague and flimsy ground.
NATURALIZED AMERICANS BECOME “SECOND CLASS CITINENS”
Sen. Herbert H. Lehman, who led the Senate fight against the McCarran-Walter Act, said it would make “second-class citizens” out of America’s 8,000,000 naturalized residents and would jeopardize the 3,500,000 aliens in this country. Sweeping arbitrary powers are given to immigration authorities who can take action unilaterally in many cases where there is no democratic provision guaranteeing any right to appeal or even to a hearing. The measure was described as a “security” safeguard, but critics have likened it to the type of “security” practiced by the Soviet Union.
During Congressional debate notorious anti-Semites took a vigorous part in fighting for the passage of the Act. Special consideration for the admission of Nazis to America was included in the Act. Congress accepted McCarran’s view that extreme right-wing groups do not constitute any threat to this nation. By a new definition of “totalitarian party,” rank and file members who voluntarily joined Nazi and other Fascist movements are considered acceptable immigrants. Communists are rigidly barred, but vital differences between liberals and “fellow-travellers” are not clearly defined.
The new law will give an opportunity to emigrate to the United States to 4, 000 Germans whose records as Nazis were so bad they were previously refused admission. U. S. consular officials at Frankfurt have already estimated that at least two-thirds of these applications may be approved. It is also considered likely that many Nazis who did not apply for visas before because they knew they would not be admitted may now apply. These include such elements as former Gestapo men and S.S. troops. Germany is also favored in the Act’s “quota” system which gives Germany a vastly larger quota than the French, Italians, or other nationalities which suffered at the hands of the Germans.
President Truman, when he vetoed the bill, gave many reasons for his actions. He described the arbitrary powers authorized in the name of security. “Our resident aliens,” said Truman, “would be more easily separated from their homes and families under grounds of deportation, both new and old, which would specifically be made retroactive. Admission to our citizenship would be made more difficult; expulsion from our citizenship would be made easier. Certain rights of native-born, first generation Americans would be limited.”
NO BASIC CHANGES BY EISENHOWER IS EXPECTED
It has been predicted that one of President-Elect Dwight Eisenhower is first legislative moves may be a gesture in the direction of revision of some technicalities in the Act. It is not expected, however, that the restrictive and reactionary theme of the law will be effectively changed. Gen. Eisenhower pledged during the campaign that he would revise the Act “to get the bigotry out of it.” A commission created by President Truman to investigate public opinion with regard to the Act discovered it was considered a national disgrace. All major Jewish groups, the National Council of Churches of Christ and many Catholic bishops spoke out against the Act.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Service made last minute preparations today to implement the new law as of tomorrow. Attorney General McGranery has admitted it was full of “ambiguities and defects” and predicted serious problems would arise in administration and enforcement. Sen. Lehman pointed out that “deportation is treated in the McCarran Bill as if it were a minor penalty, to be invoked almost indiscriminately, for scores of reasons, for minor offenses as well as for major crimes and in some instances as an expression of mere disapproval of attitudes as well as of actions.”
Sen. Lehman cited a hypothethical case: “Take an alien who has lived here twenty years, through all his mature life. He has a wife, children, perhaps even parents here in this country. He writes a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, criticizing the mayor, the chief of police, or gets some influential politican aroused against him. The Immigration and Naturallnation Service is asked to look into the allen’s record. It is found that twenty years ago he was convicted of drunken driving or violating O. P. A. regulations, or local sanitary ordinances. That man can be taken from his family, his home and his friends and deported on the grounds of this long-forgotten conviction. The authority for such a deportation is found in Section 241-A-4 of the McCarran Bill.” Deportation is required on many other grounds.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.