Immigrants, June 26, 1909

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In the entire work of the committee on immigrants great care was taken that the papers should not discuss the problems of immigration, but should deal with the immigrants themselves as they are found throughout the country and in the congested quarters of the large cities.

The first session was held Thursday morning, and dealt with the subject The Immigrant Finding Work, this being the natural beginning, for the one thing which is essential for every newly arrived foreigner is "a job."

A paper written by Mr. David A. Bressler, of the Industrial Removal Society of New York, dealt with relieving the congestion in seaboard towns; and one by W.A. Gates, with The Oriental Immigrant on the Pacific Coast.

Miss Grace Abbott, director of the League for the Protection of Immigrants, of Chicago, gave the experiences of many men in Chicago with the employment agencies, emphasizing especially the dependence upon unscrupulous agents of laborers employed on the railroads. She made the point that the unnatural living conditions in the railroad camps had, in the case of the early Irish-Americans, produced the American hobo, and that we were at the present time manufacturing hoboes as fast as possible by subjecting the Hungarians, Greeks and Italians to the same experiences.

She gave striking examples of men who had been sent from Chicago to Arkansas only to find that the towns to which they had been sent offered no work, and they were compelled to walk back to Chicago to get their next job. This happened to two large groups of men -- one of Hungarians and one of Bulgarians, both sent to Leslie, Ark. Although work might have been found within a few hundred miles of Leslie, in order to know of it they had to return to Chicago.

Experiences such as these unquestionably frighten the immigrant so that he will not leave the city again under any conditions, and feels that the hardships and uncertainty of country life are unendurable. This state of mind adds an unsupportable difficulty in our attempts to relieve the congestion of the cities.

In the general discussion many cases of exploitation through employment agencies were reported, and it is evident that these agencies are greatly in need of reform in all the large cities.

Saturday morning, June 12, the topic was The Adjustment of the School System to the Need of the Immigrant. Three papers were given, one by Dr. David Blaustein, head of the Hebrew Institute, Chicago; one by Dr. Peter Roberts, superintendent of the educational work for immigrants of the Industrial Department of the national Y.M.C.A., and one upon The Child Life on the Streets, by Philip Davis, supervisor of the licensed minors of Boston.

While these three papers contained much of value, that by Miss Sarah W. Moore was so full of original suggestions that is became the center of a lively discussion. The school Miss Moore described has been devoted to the workmen who are at present building the Ashokan Dam for the city of New York. In this school the Italian laborers are first taught all the words which they need in their daily work -- words of command and warning. To reinforce the latter, buckets filled with bean bags are attached to the center of the schoolroom in imitation of the swinging buckets holding concrete, and everything possible is done to make the acquisition of English vivid and immediate.

Miss Moore read a number of letters written by her pupils who had left the school, which were human documents of the greatest possible interest, even though written "under the fatigue of the shovel" as picturesquely put by one of the men.

The fourth section meeting dealt with Adjustment of the Legal Machinery to the Needs of the Immigrant. The first paper, The Relation of the Alien to the Administration of Civil and Criminal [page 2] Law, was by Gino Speranza, attorney for the Society for Italian Immigrants and members of the New York Immigration Commission. Mr. Speranza stated that about eighty [percent] of the arrests among immigrants had to do with the violation of city ordinances, and were not in any sense criminal, but were almost entirely the result of ignorance and maladjustment to new conditions.

Judge Emmannuel Levine, of Cleveland, Ohio, gave his personal experiences with immigrants in the Police Court. He stirred to righteous wrath his interested audience with the incidents he told concerning the wanton exploitation of the immigrant, not only by professional bondsmen and shyster lawyers, but by the legally appointed hangers-on of the police courts.

Douglas C. McMurtry gave a short paper, The Health of the Immigrant, a Study of Typhoid in Pittsburgh, which was suggestive rather than conclusive.

The discussion following these papers Monday morning was participating in by several people representing nationalities living in Buffalo, so the entire morning was full of interest.

The last morning's meeting dealt with the child of the immigrant. A paper by Mrs. Joseph T. Bowen, president of the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago, on The Delinquent Children of Immigrant Parents set forth with great clearness and a wealth of incident the difficulties which surround the child in a large city, the temptations to which he is exposed and the aid which can so quickly be brought to surmount these difficulties if an intelligent body of people are concerned and will undertake the work.

Miss Lillian D. Wald, a Member of the Immigrant Commission of the State of New York, discussed The Immigrant Young Girl, analyzing the results of the commission and the need of better interstate regulations if we would deal at all adequately with the white slave traffic. Justice Brewer's opinion, recently handed down, has pronounced unconstitutional the law prohibiting the harboring of immigrant girls for immoral purposes. The discussion naturally covered the entire white slave traffic, and some of the testimony given by Miss Miner, of the Night Court of New York, and others, was startling.

The fact that fully two-thirds of the girls in houses of prostitution in the larger cities have been put there by men engaged in such traffic, places the non-English-speaking girl in a position of peculiar defenselessness.

The general session of this section was held Saturday evening. A short introduction of the meeting was given by the writer, the chairman of the committee, who contended that the average American was inhibited by something akin to contempt from ever seeing much less really knowing, the money immigrants who live in his vicinity. America thus fails to develop possibilities that would be of inestimable value to the cultural as well as to the industrial forces of the national life. The meeting was addressed by Prof. Jeremiah W. Jenks, of Cornell University, and of the Congressional Immigration Committee, who gave an outline of the investigations at the present time being pursued by his commission; but, of course, he could not as yet state results. He was followed by Prof. George H. Mead, of the University of Chicago, who spoke upon The Adjustment of our Industry to Surplus and Unskilled Labor. Professor Mead contended that the immigrants who have built the railroads and tunnels, and done the heaviest work for the nation, have thereby placed us under a lasting obligation; that they are no longer to be considered aliens, and that they have, by their faithful effort and, in many cases ""faithful even unto death," become a part of the national life.

The third paper, Difficulties of Deportation and Extradition, was to be given by Judge Julian W. Mack, president of the League for the Protection of Immigrants, of Chicago, who was unfortunately detained.