Report of Commissioner of Immigration at Boston, 1913

Immigrant Landing Station, Boston

Boston Immigration Station circa 1904

Report of Commissioner of Immigration at Boston, In Charge Of District No.2, Comprising the New England States

The annual report of the New England district for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1913, is the record of a district containing, concerning the volume of immigration, the second, fifth, and sixth ports of the United States. The total inward passenger movement, aggregating 119,811, represents an increase of 45 percent over the preceding year, while an increase of 50 percent is denoted by the total of 106,585 in relation to alien passengers.

Appended to this report, also, are the usual statistical statements showing, among other matters, the year’s record of penalties incurred by steamship companies under section 9 and an account of aliens landed under the provisions of sections 19 and 37 for hospital treatment. The report of the Chinese division follows in due course.


The problem of conducting the business of the port of Boston in the quarters which have been rented during the past 10 years becomes increasingly difficult. These quarters form part of the second or top story of a wooden building (sheathed on the outside with tin) used for the purposes of a steamship dock.

The administrative offices I detention rooms, and dormitories, which were prepared for occupancy at considerable expense to the Government, are mainly of wooden construction. An attempt was made to protect the detention quarters by reinforcing the floors and stairways with concrete, which, it is believed, might delay the progress of a fire materially.

The task of keeping the premises in a sanitary condition becomes harder as the building ages. With a demand for accommodations which the detention quarters were never intended to meet the problem grows complex. We are unprovided with conveniences comparable to those afforded second-class passengers on trans-Atlantic liners.

In spite of the fact that the Boston immigration station long since proved inadequate to meet local demands, we are constantly under the necessity of caring for detained aliens arriving at the sub-port of Providence. This is only an additional reason for regrets, however, that no appreciable progress has been made toward erecting a new immigration station on the site purchased at East Boston several years ago.

A modem steamship dock is in process of construction at Providence, which is intended to provide suitable facilities for inspection purposes. At Present, however, the inspection of immigrants is conducted aboard ship under conditions which are conducive neither to comfort nor efficiency.

An earnest attempt was made last winter by the Board of Trade at Portland, Me, to secure adequate quarters for detained aliens. It seemed impossible, however, to obtain a suitable building for use during the comparatively limited season of immigration at that sub-port. Better success is hoped for next year.

Boston Immigrant Landing Station - Recently Arrived Immigrants circa 1912. The New Immigration, 1912.

Boston Immigrant Landing Station - Recently Arrived Immigrants circa 1912. The New Immigration, 1912. GGA Image ID # 147a2c2b8c


The subject of illegal immigration was treated at some length, last year with particular reference to stowaways and deserting seamen. The abuses to which reference was made continue and doubtless will continue until stopped through effective legislation by Congress.

The number of stowaways discovered this year, totaling 28, is the smallest on record. Of these, 7 were Americans and 21 aliens. There is no reason to suppose that the number of alien seamen, 636, reported by masters of vessels as deserting during the year, actually represents the total desertions. A total of 137 seamen presented themselves at this office for inspection, 15 of whom declared their intention to remain ashore.


Cases brought before the boards of special inquiry at Boston numbered 9,266, or about 19 percent of the total alien arrivals. The number of aliens actually deported, 397, represents seven-tenths of 1 percent of the immigrant alien arrivals or six-tenths of 1 percent of the total aliens.

The nightly average number of occupants in the detention quarters at Boston was 67, an increase of nearly 50 percent over the preceding year. The highest average for anyone month occurred this year, as last, in June. But the average for June 1912, was only 88 as compared with 121 for 1918. The month of January shows the lowest average in 1918 as well as 1912.


An essential part of our duties consists of the investigation of violations of the immigration laws and the expulsion of such aliens as are found, any time within three years after landing, to be illegally in the United States. It is clear, however, that a proper observance of those sections of the law concerning public charges implies a reasonable degree of cooperation amoIll1i Federal, State, and local authorities.

The common interests of the community naturally demand the removal of alien criminals and public charges to the countries of which they are citizens. But the initial steps in the removal process must usually be taken by the local authorities; and it is a careless public, indeed, which permits the continuance of the widespread indifference among local officials charged with the care of the delinquent and defective classes.

The results now achieved in ridding the country of "undesirables" are only a suggestion of what might be accomplished by efficient coordination of the various governmental agencies. But even the highest degree of efficiency will be unavailing fairly to meet the issue under the handicaps presented by the existing law. The problem can never be satisfactorily solved until the Jaw is amended to provide for the expulsion of aliens who demonstrate their "undesirability" at any time within five years after arrival.


Enforcement of the provisions of the so-called school bonds, which are sometimes accepted to permit the landing of children under 16 years of age unaccompanied by parents, is attended with constant friction. Among the provisions of the school bona 18 one specifying the submission of quarterly reports of school attendance until the alien reaches the age of 16. Seldom, however, are the reports furnished voluntarily.

It often becomes necessary to enter into a protracted correspondence with the bondsmen or persons responsible for the alien's care. Sometimes an officer is specifically detailed to investigate the conditions under which the child is living and ascertaining whether or not it has been placed at work unsuited to its years. On several occasions, there has been no alternative to enforcing the conditions of the bond but by deporting the alien involved.

Occasionally a child under 16 years of age unaccompanied by either parent, but going to a close relative who satisfies the immigration officers of his trustworthiness, is deemed a "meritorious case" and allowed to land without bond. A recent investigation in a New England mill city, however, of a group of five such cases, demonstrates the need of great care in dealing with alien children.

In only one or the five cases were the conditions found to be satisfactory. Two of the aliens, both girls were at work in the mills; one was serving as a domestic in the home of her relatives, one had disappeared altogether and, as was subsequently learned, had proceeded to California with relatives shortly after arrival-the New England address being fictitious; the fifth alien was attending school according to agreement.

It would not be difficult to point out abuses in connection with ordinary public charge bonds, which are accepted by the Government to permit landing in some instances of aliens who are decrepit or diseased. It is believed that the new form of bond recently adopted which provides for a limited degree of surveillance in the case of a bonded alien during a period of one year after landing, will prove of advantage.


According to the existing method of inspecting arriving immigrants, it is often desirable to make a second inspection at the proposed destination. This is particularly the case in reference to young women, children, and groups of men going to a single address. Practical experience demonstrates the need for this second inspection also to cover affiants from whom are received affidavits in behalf of immigrants destined to remote sections of the country.

New England has a large Canadian population, and at some seasons, the demand for investigations of cases of aliens entering the United States from Canada is most insistent. Under existing conditions, the burden of proof in doubtful matters too often is placed upon the Government. Cases of suspected contract labor, immorality or other delinquencies, concerning which direct evidence is lacking, are perforce landed and, owing to the pressure of routine business, may be lost to sight. It is believed that a considerable proportion of such aliens are actually in the country in violation of the law.

The solution of the problems suggested in the preceding paragraph may be met by the creation of a permanent field force for continuous Investigation. The regular or routine work of the port must take precedence over outside matters; and during busy seasons of immigration, it is entirely impracticable to spare men for special details, no matter how great the need.


Investigations of Chinese have been made in 376 cases. Of these 204 were applications for return certificates, 71 were applications for entry (on which reports were made to other officers in charge), and 101 were miscellaneous investigations. Moreover, it was necessary during the year to keep watch over 1 459 Chinese laborers who came into the ports of the district as employees of vessels. Four of these "seamen" escaped, bonds given on account o( three of them being forfeited.


The difficulties of supervising several widely separated ports of entry with the limited force at my command were mentioned In last year's report. High praise is due to the personnel In this district for the spirit in which it has met the extraordinary demands of the year 1913. In spite of a remarkable expansion of business, there has been no corresponding increase in the number of employees. Under the circumstances, our force has resembled a small army overwhelmed by superior numbers, and it has been impossible at times thoroughly to enforce the statutes.

The total inward passenger movement, aggregating 119,811, represents an increase of 45 percent over the preceding year, the total of 106,585 denotes an increase of 50 percent in relation to alien passengers. Appended to this report, also, are the usual statistical statements showing, among other matters, the year’s record of penalties incurred by steamship companies under section 9 and an account of aliens landed under the provisions of sections 19 and 37 for hospital treatment.


 Other details regarding Chinese transactions In the New England district are shown In the bureau's report.

United States Bureau of Immigration, Annual Report of the Commissioner General of Immigration to the Secretary of Labor for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1913, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1914, p. 178-180.

Report of Commissioner of Immigration at Boston, 1913. Written by: GEO. B. BILLINGS. Published by: United States Bureau of Immigration on 1914.


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