Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/239

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233
DISTRUST OF THE IMMIGRANT.

The reformer's reason for distrust is a grave one. It is a fact that thousands of immigrants receive qualification as voters when under the law they are clearly not entitled to it. There is no doubt that such a mass of ignorant voters constitutes a great power for evil. But the blame can hardly be charged to the immigrant; rather is it due to the unscrupulous ward politicians who thus increase their following and to the judge who grants citizenship papers without proper investigation of the applicant.

So far as the fear of loathsome and contagious disease is concerned the danger is comparatively slight. The immigrants are subjected to a rigid physical examination at Ellis Island by the officers of the United States Public Health and Marine-Hospital Service. The double system of inspection practiced there makes it practically impossible for any immigrant suffering from a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease to pass without detection. The ratio in each race of the number so affected, to the total number of that race landed, during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1901, is here given:

 
Slav (Pole, Slovak, Croatian) 1 in every 7,000
Magyar 1 " 6,500
Italian 1 " 3,450
Lithuanian 1 " 1,250
Hebrew 1 " 1,100
Finn 1 " 1,000
Syrian 1 " 135
 

As far as the fear of increase of crime and pauperism is concerned, it is true that prison statistics usually show a majority of those convicted of crime to be foreign born. But the industrious statistician loses sight of the fact that the 'other half of the population of a great city, the poor and the needy, the underpaid and the underfed, are almost all foreign born, and it is from this class of course that we expect to fill our jails. It was not, however, his birth, but his poverty, that caused the immigrant to commit crime. We do not expect to find criminals so frequently on Fifth Avenue as on the Bowery.

Hunger may prompt a poor starving wretch to steal, and his act is a criminal offense duly recorded, but when greed of money or position or fondness for good living makes the comparatively rich man commit a 'breach of trust,' his error does not appear in prison statistics. Pauperism is the result of the absence of one or both of the prime requisites of a desirable immigrant. The pauper is either unwilling to work or lacks the physique to stand hard labor. The amount of money brought does not affect greatly an immigrant's chances of becoming a pauper. One immigrant may have little money, but with a rugged physique and willingness to work he will not become a public charge; another immigrant, too lazy for laboring work, or