Cleveland Veto - Literacy Test for Immigrants

I herewith return, without approval, House Bill No. 7864, entitled "An act to amend the immigration laws of the United States."

By the first section of this bill it is proposed to amend Section 1 of the act of March 3, 1891, relating to immigration, "by adding to the classes of aliens thereby excluded from admission to the United States the following: all persons physically capable and over sixteen years of age who cannot read and write the English language or some other language; but a person not so able to read and write who is over fifty years of age and is the parent or grandparent of a qualified immigrant over twenty-one years of age and capable of supporting such parent or grandparent may accompany such immigrant, or such a parent or grandparent may be sent for and come to join the family of a child or grandchild over twenty-one years of age, similarly qualified and capable, and a wife or minor child not so able to read and write may accompany or be sent for and come and join the husband or parent similarly qualified and capable."

A radical departure from our national policy relating to immigration is here presented. Heretofore, we have welcomed all who came to us from other lands, except for those whose moral or physical condition or history threatened danger to our national welfare and safety. Relying upon the jealous watchfulness of our people to prevent injury to our political and social fabric, we have encouraged those coming from foreign countries to cast their lot with us and join in the development of our vast domain, securing in return a share in the blessings of American citizenship.

A century's stupendous growth, largely due to the assimilation and thrift of millions of sturdy and patriotic adopted citizens, attests to the success of this generous and freehanded policy, which, while guarding the people's interests, exacts from our immigrants only physical and moral soundness and willingness and ability to work.

A contemplation of the grand results of this policy cannot fail to arouse a sentiment in its defense; for however it might have been regarded as an original proposition and viewed as an experiment, its accomplishments are such that if it is to be uprooted at this late day its disadvantages should be plainly apparent and the substitute adopted should be just and adequate, free from uncertainties and guarded against difficult or oppressive administration.

It is not claimed, I believe, that the time has come for the further restriction of immigrants on the ground that an excess of population overcrowds our land.

It is said, however, that the quality of the recent immigration is undesirable. The time is quite within recent memory when the same thing was said of our immigrants who with their descendants are now numbered among our best citizens.

It is said that too many immigrants settle in our cities, thus dangerously increasing their idle and vicious population. This is certainly a disadvantage. It cannot be shown, however, that it affects all our cities, nor that it is permanent; nor does it appear that this condition, where it exists, demands as its remedy the reversal of our present immigration policy.

The claim is also made the influx of foreign laborers deprives of the opportunity to work those who are better entitled than they to the privilege of earning their livelihood by daily toil. An unfortunate condition is certainly presented when any who are willing to labor are unemployed. But so far as this condition now exists among our people, it must be conceded to be a result of phenomenal business depression and the stagnation of all enterprises of which labor is a factor. With the advent of settled and wholesome financial and economic governmental policies and consequent encouragement of the activity of capital, the misfortunes of unemployed labor should, to a great extent at least, be remedied. If it continues, its natural consequences must be to check the further immigration to our cities of foreign laborers and to deplete the ranks of those already here. In the meantime, those most willing and best entitled ought to be able to secure the advantages of such work as there is to do.