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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/171

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IMMIGRATION.

other than to escape persecution in Russia or Roumania. When they finally reach New York, so complete is their pauperization, that they require assistance, in many instances for years after landing.

Thus the causes of emigration will be seen to indicate in most cases the relative desirability of emigrants. The best are likely to be found among those whose emigration is voluntary or spontaneous, and the worst are likely to be found among those assisted and pauperized by societies or rich individuals, while between the two extremes the others can be graded in varying degrees of desirability.

The first legislation relating to immigrants bears the date of March 2, 1819. A clause in this act provided for the enumeration upon arrival, as well as a statement of the age, sex and place of birth of immigrants. This provision of the law was expected to regulate the transportation of immigrants, to prevent overcrowding on the ships and to mitigate some other abuses on shipboard. Laws for regulation or restriction of immigration have always been the result of popular demand, and have been enacted from time to time either to correct existing abuses or to prevent the entrance of certain undesirable classes. The fact, therefore, that no immigration legislation was enacted from 1819 to 1875 speaks well for the immigrants arriving during that period.

It must not be supposed that the coming of immigrants was entirely unopposed during this period, but the clamor raised against them about 1850 was based on racial or religious grounds, was sectional, not general, and so manifestly selfish and bigoted that the great majority of Americans took no part in it, and no restrictive legislation resulted. About 1875 it became evident that some regulation of immigration was necessary in order to prevent certain undesirable classes, regardless of race, from landing. As a result the act of March 3, 1875, was recorded in the statutes. The classes barred by this act were prostitutes and convicted felons. By 1882 other undesirable classes attracted attention, and a law passed in that year added to the list of excluded classes, all idiots, lunatics, and 'persons unable to care for themselves without becoming a public charge.' It also provided that a head tax of fifty cents be collected from each arriving alien, the money to be paid into the treasury of the United States and to constitute the 'Immigrant Fund.' This fund was to be used in defraying the expenses incident to the regulation of immigration.

Previous to 1885, large employers of labor imported workmen under contract for less than the American standard of wages, and through the combined efforts of the labor organizations, legislation was enacted in 1885 to prevent the entrance of these contract laborers.

The first contract labor act of 1885 was strengthened by the amendatory act of 1887, by which power to make regulations and rules and issue instructions, not inconsistent with law, for the carrying out of the provisions of the act, was vested in the Secretary of the Treasury.