The Federal Administration and the Alien: A supplement to Immigration and the Future

Frances Kellor

George H. Doran Company, NY





This book is a supplement to Immigration and the Future published in January of 1921. 

The last election showed confidence in the federal government so the hysteria concerning the “immigrant invasion” is disappearing.  It is a good time, therefore, to study post-war changes which affect aliens. 


The alien being interested in foreign affairs means that we should be interested in our alien guests.  Scientific information, free of class bias, is required for this.   This book deals primarily with the immediate problems confronting the administration and the foundations of a permanent policy.  It argues that we should consider immigration as part of larger international questions.




The Emergency

There is a widespread belief that the flood of immigrants is demoralizing the immigration service.  Ellis Island receives eighty percent of all immigrants.  Overhauling it to its pre-war status is key.  It needs to be run efficiently. 

            Law must also be enforced. 

            These measures need to be supplemented with a cleaning up of the wording of the law. 

            The State Department does resident aliens and the Labor Dept does the admission of aliens.  These spheres must be kept separate if there is efficiency!

            The State Department should make an inquiry into the conditions in the foreign countries and their relation to the aliens that have come here.  19

            The State Department should also know about organized activities of aliens such as racial societies, trade bodies, foreign language newspapers, et.

            No one doing any of this stuff, the whole mess should be centralized via the reorganization of the naturalization bureau. 

            The stabilization of immigration is a commercial matter and should receive the attention of the Department of Commerce.  Distribution of land and continuous employment are good “stabilizers”.  “The use of racial groups to control the foreign market at home, the use of emigrants to improve trade relations abroad – these illustrate the nature of the probable stabilization methods of the future” 21 [what??]

            The Treasury Department should safeguard the transmission of the immigrant’s money abroad and protect him from fraud.   Otherwise, if he is ripped off he will not invest and distrust this country.   We talk about the evils the immigrant brings, we need to also address the evils that happen to the immigrant.

            Congress must answer the following questions: What is Americanization?  What shall be done with the foreign language press?  Shall citizenship be compulsory, with deportation the penalty for refusal to comply?  Shall the troubles of Europe be brought to this country?  Shall aliens be registered?  Shall the use of the English language be mandatory?  Shall immigration be further restricted, and, if so, how?

            While looking over all of these, Congress should keep focus, though, on restoring the efficiency of Ellis Island to pre-war levels of efficiency, sharpen laws and make sure that there is no overlap between agencies.



We have our emergency measure in place, but we could have used that time for formulating a more permanent policy.  The time was not wasted as we learned during that time that we were not being inundated.  And all in the hearing had the same info and came to different conclusions.  Still the fundamentals were agreed upon in the hearings.

            First, the selection of immigrants 25.  Immigration is selected now by family being willing to send an invite and a ticket.  80% come that way.  “Personal relationships- and not the needs and welfare of the country – are the determining influences.” 26

            Second issue, the regulation of immigration.  Those mentally, morally or politically undesirable were excluded.  A literacy test and labor test were added.  Steamship capacity is the main limiter.

            Health regulations being internationalized have helped.

            Deportation became so popular that it was used to anticipate as well as remedy evils.  We also did not discriminate between grave and minor offenses.

            After these agreements, the Senate Immigration committee was confused.  There were vague plans for distributing immigrants.  Protection could not be agreed upon.  This was to be left to representatives of foreign governments.  Stabilization of immigration has had almost no attention.  Maintenance of wage rates and promotion of interest in American institutions.     

            14,5 mill entered the country in 28 years and 7 million returned.  Stabilization is at 50%.

            Money is invested in racially defined community. 

            Immigrants want to become citizens less than Americans want them to become citizens. 

            Our country is proud of its free education.  “We believe in the use of one language, in the elimination of illiteracy, and in the extension of the knowledge of our institutions.” 28, But congress isn’t funding Adult Ed.

            The Senate Immigration Committee has said regulation, sanitation, deportation and naturalization are being done.  Selection, distribution, protection, stabilization, capitalization and adequate education are not being done. 

            The immigrant is adjusting okay, but inefficiently.  And the strain is showing. 

            Our system receives the immigrant but in no way provides a system for his assimilation.  And we are now drifting into a state of mind where race prejudice and misunderstanding are creeping in. 



            The presence in the country of enemy aliens, the distribution of international propaganda, the spending of foreign money to influence public opinion, the departure of aliens to fight for their home countries, the raising of funds for European purposes, the revival of national sentiment and the growth of racial opinion are the problems that overwhelm and demoralize our administrative machinery.  30.

            At writing they had just rejected the League of Nations. 

            Via over 40 organizations there is a rich storehouse of racial information.  During the war a lot of information on aliens was collected.  But it hasn’t been analyzed.


            We need an examination of the principles of immigration law.  Second, a study of the administration of current laws, to see where there is duplication.  Third, a study of post war conditions and what we should then change.  Fourth, a survey of the progress of immigrant assimilation and the forces that are hindering and supporting this process.  Fifth the laws of those countries that people are emigrating from.

            This will provide a map for our overhaul.




When states relinquished their full rights to the regulation of immigration, they were less specific about their rights towards the alien. 35.

            The Feds took control in 1882.  But with the new emergency municipalities are taking action.  States try to regulate and the Feds fight them.  In some states, corporations had been prohibited from employing more than a certain percentage of aliens.  In other places citizenship papers are required to work in plants.  The Feds have fought these acts.

            State regulations of publishing language, employment etc ignores treaty obligations.  Residents of nations with Most Favored Nation status can live here freely.  “… and with the American bent upon restriction, registration and suppression of racial differences and expression, protection increasingly becomes an affair of state.” 37

            She is concerned that states not violate international agreements.  Part of this requires stopping discrimination and securing rights. Most importantly, the state must be brought into line with the Fed’s policy. 



            Discrimination breeds evasion and defiance.  Non-citizen cannot get peddler’s licenses and so pay big fines. 

            Why then do they not become citizens?  First they are the citizens of enemy nations and thus cannot become citizens without the special consent of the President.  Secondly, many cannot make the English knowledge requirements.

            In Michigan the alien cannot be a barber.   In Pennsylvania he cannot own a dog.  This is humiliating.  41.  He is a lonely and exploited figure.  Such discrimination is bad for him and the country.  It breaks down his respect for law.  Separatist neighborhoods and institutions flourish.  The alien is exploited when there are no laws that protect him. 

            State governments have instituted bureaus to protect aliens from abuse, but this shows that it is a Federal government job.

            Americans think it isn’t their business as foreign governments look out for them.  But the alien sooner accepts abuse than fights it.  And when they are naturalized citizens, they still turn to their ex-consulate for help as we don’t give it to them.  And foreign governments cannot protect a population so dispersed. 

            Thus he is resentful and reluctant to Americanizers. 

            Thus governments send their people to friendlier countries. 

            In the next treaty the human rights of aliens should receive more consideration and their status should be fixed.  World migration is gaining.  We are now a country of immigration and emigration.  Americans are now going abroad. 45.



            What part will foreign born citizens have in making policy?  When we do not pay attention to their needs they vote more in line with their home nation’s interests.  [I doubt it].  47.  The vote was on how Wilson treated their homeland.  A situation of this kind cannot continue with safety to the nation.   We must get the foreign to participate more fully in our national life to protect against this. 48. 

            Local leaders must not cater to the foreign interests of their constituencies.  We have to let these people feel that they are counted and here to stay.  We must welcome them into the government.  “The foreign born leader has technically given up one allegiance for another.  He has struggled to learn the language.  He has studied our institutions.   He has met our requirements and has done his best to become an American.” 49.These leaders need to hobnob with ours to make a friendship and common interest. 

            Immigrants themselves must be a part to honing our immigration laws.  Those working with immigration law must know about immigrants, not just restrictionists.  Many restrictionists are foreign born. 

            The future progress in Americanization depends on some national recognition of them.  Until there is recognition of their interests, Americanization will fail. 



            Closeness between foreign born leaders and native born leaders existed via consultation during the war.  52.  Despite our rejecting it, she still hopes that representatives on emigration are sent to the League of Nations. 

We inconsistently send a lot of immigration officials overseas anyhow.  Those representatives rarely think of how the laws they promulgate and negotiate will affect the immigrant in our country.  Theyhtink it enough that we let them in.  But this is key to assimilation.  While we ignore them they grow separatist communities that wield independent powers.

            The average American thinks that his government does not know what international forces are at work in the country. 

            The State Department wrote an embarrassing document that was leaked.

            “A large proportion of immigrants are inimical to the best interests of the American Government.”  “Immigrants are small in stature and are of a low order of intelligence.” “They are greatly un-American and dangerous in their habits.”  It said. 

            Such government statements are hurtful and damaging. 

            The American voter has shown that they care more about good citizens than good workmen.  56.  We don’t want this to be up to international bodies either.  But some part of it, inspection, ship inspection, adopting  passports as a means of controlling immigration, these are international. 

            Officials should be careful about stupid and hurtful generalizations.  This would restore the confidence of the foreign born in our government. 



            The uniting of this country is not just a matter of the individual immigrant and the government 58.  There is a racial economic system that has its roots in Europe at work here too. 

            The American and the foreigner function through their organizations.  While it looks individual, his actions often represent group thought.    The Committee of Public Information (CPI) first tried to strengthen old racial solidarities to win the war.  The Treasury Dept in selling Liberty Bonds did the same thing.  When the Greeks focused on their homeland election, they lost interest in our domestic politics.   They sent $750,000 abroad. 

            The four daily Russian papers are more concerned with sovietism than republicanism.  The home country asks for money.  And they set up banks in America so the interest on savings goes to their country. 

            Can this internationalism be dealt with by purely domestic measures? 

            The Dutch want their people to succeed and Americanize so that they can send more money home.  Distribution, stabilization, capitalization and assimilation progress faster with cooperation with these groups.  It is better to do this than to greet such groups with suspicion.  These groups, officially recognized, can be held responsible for their actions.  Thus we can guide this racial thought, via patience to deal with prejudice and the pride of race.  It will provide no harm to American interests while it helps to promoste peace and stability in the native countries. 



            Half of the immigrants return home. 63.  What has America consciously done to win the good will and friendship of these immigrants and enhance our standing with their countrymen abroad?  Those who return likely say bad things about us and this is a loss for Americanism.  64.

            We are an emigration as well as an immigration country.

            American wages pay for 80 percent of the tickets to America and they take home $2,000 each when they return.  This is saved from American wages.  Remittances are about $300 a year.  The  7 million that return to Europe represents a stupendous loss of funds. 

            Skilled workmen that learn here take their know-how back home.  We have to then retrain folks and the new ones don’t speak English and share little of our customs.   Average cost of labor turnover per man is $40.  Are we to be a training school for European industries? 

            A racial mechanics league was started so that folks could send money back home and start businesses there.  They buy equipment here, but does it offset the costs? 

            Since the war, racial chambers of commerce have increased in number in this country.  Racial steamships are being formed.  Racial trade publications are flourishing. 

            European countries have studied these patterns and we do not. 

            We must reduce the cost of turnover and make the immigrant an enthusiastic interpreter of American institutions as well as a salesman of American goods.  Can we not use this person leaving to our advantage?  We want him to buy American even when he is back in his country.  They can send workers when we need them. 

            The Italians give immigrants guides as to how to be successful in America so he can send money back.  67.  We need to work to make him successful here so that he will help us? 



There are those who argue that we thrust citizenship upon folks too much.  It is a precious gift that should be guarded and sought before being granted.  Most European countries take this view.  Sweden does not want foreigners to accept their king.

“It is different here.  We regard every alien, except the Oriental, as a subject for Americanization, education and citizenship.” 70.  We push the person to become a citizen.  We do this by showing what economic advantages are to be had.  Some employers won’t hire non-citizens. 

            This has cheapened American citizenship.  It has turned it into a work permit. 

            Should we worry about whether immigrants fit our work needs or have papers?  Economic needs are flexible, but political needs remain fixed.  70.  So to make immigration contingent upon citizenship is contrary to the experience of all other countries.

            Nearly every other country makes a distinction between the economic and the political aspects of immigration.  They regard those who plan on staying as different. 

To those who want to stay we should offer an opportunity to learn our language and adopt our customs.  Otherwise they are here to do work as long as they are not a menace.  The subject of citizenship is not raised unless so by the immigrant themselves.

            When naturalized citizens are separated from their home country entirely, they lose their property and family. 

            There are those who feel that the test of admission to citizenship should be as severe as a court trial.  Some think all aliens should be under surveillance until they take out papers to be citizens and then they should do education for citizenship training. 

            These varying points of view indicate that the American thought is beginning to correct the misshapen idea that every alien is a potential citizen and that economic and political opportunity are the same.  50% of folks returning home shows that this is not true. 

            Naturalization requires prolonged residence in a state and many aliens are migrants.  This hurts their attempts.  They are in a twilight zone of mixed patriotism. 

            She wants the granting of citizenship to be more ceremonious and the examination more thorough.  73.  This task, and coordinating the information abroad with it, should be undertaken by the new administration. 



            Developing new law must take its place next to enforcement, proper methods of reception and distribution, looking to assimilation and furthermore, international issues.   

            We need to standardize for purposes of dissemination immigration information to other nations.  We also need information exchange offices or mechanisms. 

            Beyond this an international convention that formulates principles of immigration would be good.  What sorts of rights and guarantees to public facilities to the families of immigrants have, for example, must be tackled. 

            The increased use of international labor requires this. 

            The treaties of this nature which have so far been worked out include provisions on the number to be sent, the manner of selection and transportation, the wages being the same as local in every country.  The opportunity for education and relief when in trouble are considered.  Other considerations are repatriation and the stopping of immigration when the economy gets bad.    If these are worked out internationally, friction is reduced. 

            The British have to work out such agreements with their colonies. 

            We must co-regulate steamships. 

We are also trying to make a universal passport system.

            “Evidences are not lacking that competition for immigration from South American countries, Canada, Mexico and Australia is increasing.  The demand is not wholly for settlers.  Although settlers are preferred, the question of providing a temporary labor supply is under consideration in some of these countries.”  78.

            Americans tend to think lack of international cooperation is a good thing.  It is if our view of the future has no immigration.  This is okay if American business is willing to pay the price.  The cost of turnover is such that we need economic gain to justify it. 

            It would hurt the human shipping business.   [She is here saying if immigration stops so does trade.  Total isolationism or nothing].  She believes that goods follow immigrants and foreigners returning home take our products with them and stimulate foreign demand. 

            Whatever immigration policy we adopt, we should weigh the economic consequences.  We should also know what other countries are doing.  When we have all the information, we can make wise choices.  We must, though, be prepared to act.