Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Refugee Relief Act Attacked As “discriminatory” Legislation

September 24, 1953
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Philip B. Perlman, who was Solicitor General of the United States for many years, last night described the Eisenhower Administration’s Refugee Act as even worse than the McCarran-Walter Act. Mr. Perlman said the Act, which was described by the new Administration as a “liberal achievement,” was actually “the most discriminatory, the most restrictive and generally the worst piece of (immigration) legislation” in the nation’s history.

“The Refugee Relief Act of 1953 expressly adopts the discriminations and the other abuses of the McCarran-Walter Act, and then adds new ones, so drastic in scope as to destroy the hopes of many who have been dreaming of a safe haven in the United States,” he said. As head of a seven-member commission appointed by former President Truman to study immigration legislation, Mr. Perlman last January turned in a report urging complete revision of the McCarran-Walter Act.

Mr. Perlman said there has been an attempt to confuse the immigration issue so that the public would think the new Refugee Relief Act is a revision of the McCarran Walter Act, in line with President Eisenhower’s campaign pledge. He especially decried a letter written to President Eisenhower on August 31 by Sen. Arthur V. Watkins, chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, which urged that nothing be changed in the McCarran-Walter Act until the new 1953 emergency law expires in three and one-half years.

“It is to be hoped,” Mr. Perlman said, “that the President will put Sen. Watkins’ letter into the wastebasket where it belongs.” Mr. Perlman’s criticisms of the Administration’s Refugee Relief Act were many and specific. He pointed out that:

1. The law admits about 58,000 immigrants annually, although President Eisenhower had asked for 120,000 per year. In this respect, he noted that the 58,000 does not absorb the unused immigration quotas of the north and west European nations.

2. The law, originally intended to help solve over-population problems as well as provide for more refugees, was “emasculated in the Senate” to such an extent that a limited number of visas for non-refugee Italians, Greeks and Netherlanders who are close relatives of American citizens and resident aliens are “the sole vestige left.”

3. The law allows Congress to “usurp” executive powers by ordering deportations, if Congress so desires, of aliens who entered this country before July 1, this year, as non-immigrants.

4. The law fails to state to which countries persons failing to win Congressional approval will be deported. Thus, there is the threat that some persons may be deported to homelands they fled to avoid religious or political persecution.

5. The law is “replete with conditions and prohibitions and qualifications” which require immigrants to give proof they are not displacing other persons in this country from housing or employment.

6. The law-and Mr. Perlman emphasized this point–allows consular and immigration officers to refuse aliens visas if the officer has “reason to believe” the alien is ineligible. This gives such officers dangerous arbitrary powers, he said.

Mr. Perlman made these remarks in an address before the Baltimore chapter of Americans for Democratic Action. An expert in the field of immigration law, Mr. Perlman has been highly commended by major Jewish organizations for his work as chairman of the commission established by President Truman to study immigration and naturalization problems.

Recommended from JTA