Too Much For The Melting Pot of Immigrants
"There are over 17,500,000 aliens in this country, yet barely 6,000,000 have become citizens" is the statement made at Washington yesterday by Ray F. Cryst, deputy commissioner of naturalization and he declared that "among these millions, comparatively few have any knowledge of or interest in American institutions."
Well, what are we going to do about it? Leave the doors open for more to pour into the country or call a halt while we assimulate what we have?
The industrail feature of the vast immigration is important, of course, as the leaders of organized labor have pointed out, because the greater part of this influx comes from lands where extremely low pay prevails and, arriving in America, the men take work at wages that no American would be willing to accept.
But the wage question is only termporary, for the son of the immigrant is and American and insists on being paid American wages, while the immigrant, himself, after a few years, forces employers to give him the same renumeration that others receive.
It is not the question of wages, therefore, that is the great point alone to be considered. It is that of race and of American institutions.
In the early days of the republic, the main stream of new citizenship flowed from England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Scandinavian countries, where the people for ages had been trined in the rights of the citizen and where the constitutional form of government and the duties of teh citizen under such government were understood, where similar views of morality were held and where habits of life and the family ideal were to a great extent much alike.
Such immigrants become good Americans in a short time and they and their descendants have helped to create this great commonwealth. We have had good French, Portuguese, Swiss and, let us admit it, German immigrants, too, who have become assimilated in themselves and their children, though not in the same number as from other countries.
But, in the last few decades, immigration has set in from lands where the ideal of citizenship is not the same as in Northern Europe, where the liberty of the individual is not understood as we understand it and where the development of constitutional government as the result of evolution through centures has not occured, as it has in Great Britain, the United States, the British colonies and Norway.
These new "arrivals" have been indueed in thousands of instances to leave their homes on the representations of steamship agents who profit from the travel or of agents looking for cheap labor. They know nothing about America, not even being aware of where it is, and they have no conception of the United States, its people or its form of government.
They land in this country and, instead of going out into the states where they can meet Americans, they congregage in large colonies in the great cities, where they live among themselves, speaking their own language and never learning English or the customs of America. They retain their old habits of thought and their native veiws.
The fundamental principle of the responsibility of the citizen to every other citizen and to the law of the land is something that is beyond their conception and they never will understand it because they never go where they could learn it. Nor do their children have a much better chance to acquire the foundations of good citizenship, for their home training contineus to be that of the native country of the parents.
America has been called, in the expressive phrase of Zangwill, the "melting pot of the nations." But here is something that we can't melt because it is never brought to the pot. All these millions must be absorbed into the great American race and it will take time, as they are ignorant, mentally untrained for Americanism and bound by traditions that are wholly at variance with American priciples of democracy.
Yet they must be assimilated. They are in America to remain, to become themselves, or certainly in their descendants, part of the commonwealth and of the race.
It is time to put up the bars. When fifty-four persons can be ordered deported by the scretary of labor because they are unfit to be in this country and when it is found that half of them are aliens, it is evident that the restrictions against immigration of the unfit are not enforced as vigoriously as they ought to be and that immigration is virtually unrestricted.
Let us restrict it. In fact, in order to absorb all these aliens of whom Mr. Cryst speaks, we must restrict it. Give us time to convert the aliens now within our borders into American citizens before we allow the free admission of any more.
Source: Reno Evening Gazette, February 13, 1919 Reno, Nevada, Page 4, Column 1