The Need of an Immigration Test.
One result of the return of prosperity has been the large increase in the number
of immigrants. This presents a problem that ought not to be overlooked. Immigration
increased 36 per cent. from 1808 to 1809, and 44 per cent. the succeeding year.
The three largest elements in the immigration of 1900 were South Italians, with
84,346, Hebrews, 60,764, and Polish, 46,938. A large share of these are absolutely
illiterate, and the whole mass constitutes a pretty indigestible lump for assimilation
into out body politic. Twenty years ago the United Kingdom of Great Britain
including Ireland, France, Germany and Scandinavia, furnished three-fourths
of the immigrants and supplied a far more valuable acquisition to our population.
Only four years ago these four sources furnished one-half the immigration, but
now only one-quarter.
The enormous mass of ignorance that is flowing in means the increase of the
elements that breed discontent in the manufacturing towns, and the besotted
electorate susceptible to the manipulation of corrupt politicians grows in voting
power. It is time to cry, Halt! The tests already applied are ridiculously unsatisfactory.
Only four were debarred for being criminals last year. The most practical exclusion
rule that was ever suggested was the reading and writing test, to be applied
in the language of the immigrants, as proposed in the Lodge bill. This is not
a perfect test. But that there is a relation between literacy and the very desirable
quality of thrift for one thing, is proved by the figures, which show that literate
immigrants have brought much more money into the country than the illiterate.
Indeed, the figures show that the per cent of money brought in varies in almost
inverse ratio to the per cent of illiteracy. The Portuguese, of whom 45 per
cent. are illiterates, brought $7.57 per capita; the South Italians, 46 per
cent. illiterates, brought in $8.79 per capita; the French, 8 per cent. illerates,
brought $31.98 per capita; the English, Scotch, Welch, 2 per cent illiterates,
brought $29 51 per capita.
Thrift is not a bad test, though but a partial one, of a man's fitness to come
into the country, and if it is so closely measured by literacy tests, why may
not other desirable qualities also be indicated by this criterion? Though not
a perfect test it is the only practical one ever suggested, that would in effect
rule out a large section of the people we do not want. It is sometimes said
that these illiterate people are needed to do the rough work of our country,
to build our railroads, operate our mines, etc. But so far as heard from there
is a sufficient supply of that class of labor now.
The Lodge bill providing a literacy test, was passed in 1896 by Congress by
large majorities, but was vetoed by President Cleveland, much to the country's
injury. A similar bill is now pending and it should be promptly passed. The
veto of the Lodge bill was one of the cases where the granting of power by the
country to a Democrat cost the country the deferment of a needed reform. Cleveland
was, no doubt, patriotic and honest. But his action was another indication that
you can't trust the Democratic party for a sensible view on points where the
traditional party theories of extreme Democracy come into play. The average
Democrat boasts of his love for and faith in the common people. But he carries
his idea to such an extent, that he would debauch the electorate and lower the
tone of our citizenship by letting in a herd of illiterates, without any conception
of our form of government and traditions of public life, simply because they
are clothed in the outward semblance of manhood.