Page images

The United States is the pioneer country in immigration and is on this account the leader and guide. The study of the problem in other countries can best be made by comparison with the United States. For this reason the status of immigration and the laws governing it in this country are presented first. It has not been thought necessary here to go, to any extent, into a discussion of the causes of immigration since these have been treated exhaustively by other writers and are generally understood. There is no obscure force at work in drawing people to the New World, whether in the Northern or Southern hemisphere. Man is ever seeking a better life. Those who have little to lose, hesitate least over change; things cannot be worse, they think and they may be very much better. It is this hope that has built up new lands. It is this hope, too, that has played into the hands of unscrupulous exploiters of industry who have lured men with high sounding but unrealized promises. Adult men have listened to their sorrow to fairy tales of fabulous wages across the water, and have sailed away only to be disillusioned; while others have found riches and happiness. And thus have empires been built. But motives and causes have no special place here. This is rather a presentation of the situation as it exists after a hundred years of record keeping in this country.

Our study naturally divides itself into three parts, the United States, the British Empire and South America. So far as the first two are concerned, there is a general unity of aim. In all we find democratic forms of government. The countries awaiting development by immigration are politically free and thus form an attractive haven to the poor and oppressed. They become lands of desire of which the United States is easily first because its attractions are more widely known, primarily on account of the length of its immigration history. Other countries with eyes on the United States are feeling their way toward an immigration policy, and now that the gates here are closing, the ambitious and the unfortunate in crowded Old World homes are scanning the horizon for new signs of welcome. But they may not migrate freely as in the centuries that are gone, for barriers have been erected everywhere. Experience directs this course; and it is experience in the United States as well as at home as will be seen in the chapters to follow, that has influenced other new countries to discriminate against certain types or groups of people.


Immigration is a wider question than that which revolves about the Japanese in California or the Jews in New York City. It is inextricably intertwined with the great questions of human welfare in the world. Countries of economic opportunity must bear the burden, as well as enjoy the benefits of immigration, since any sudden or continued influx of labor carries with it social burdens that are often heavy. The United States as a nation discovered this with its attempt to conscript an army; socially minded persons within the nation had made the discovery much earlier. It is madness to suppose that a constant stream of aliens can be admitted into any country, for economic reasons only, without some bad effects; it must be digested or it is liable to become a menace.

The movement of people about the earth is a fascinating spectacle; the forces pulling men in one direction or another are as real and observable as the varying currents in the sea. The physically strong and the economically independent can usually make their own terms with the world, and may be relied upon to make their own adjustments to strange surroundings. But those who are weak and incompetent bear down heavily upon the society that receives them; and it is they who constitute the most serious part of the problem of immigration. Restrictive laws thus far have not kept such people out of the United States, and according to many thinkers, should not attempt to do so. Certainly every human being born into the world should be given a chance to better himself either in the country of his origin or in

some other place. But it goes without saying that if the less fortunate peoples do move about the world, it should be by agreement of all nations concerned, and the country receiving them should feel a definite responsibility for their well-being.

Upon these considerations the student is asked to dwell as he follows throughout the chapters to come the status of immigration in the Americas, Australasia and the South African Union. It is hoped that a knowledge of the actual situation together with some of the more general problems involved will lead, if only in a small degree, to a better understanding of human relations in the modern world.



« PreviousContinue »