Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/387

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383
THE MEDICAL SIDE OF IMMIGRATION

THE MEDICAL SIDE OF IMMIGRATION
By Dr. ALFRED C. REED

ASSISTANT SURGEON, U. S. PUBLIC HEALTH AND MARINE HOSPITAL SERVICE NEW YORK CITY

PERHAPS no question is of more paramount and continuing interest to the American people than immigration in all its phases and relations to public welfare. The history of the United States is the history of alien immigration. The earliest pioneers were themselves alien immigrants. Our institutions, political, religious and social, have been founded and supported by aliens or their near descendants. Our country is indeed a melting-pot, into which have been poured diverse varieties of peoples, from all nations and races. Yet in the face of this, these variant elements have been fused into a more or less homogeneous nation. A national life and character we have. This national or American character is not exemplified in those places where the large streams of immigration are pouring in, but farther away where the waters have mixed. Such a condition, unique in the history of nations, is responsible for certain problems which are also unique in history, and consequently do not admit of solution according to precedents.

The first rule of national life is self-preservation, and since immigration has had and still has so important a role in American national life, it must be carefully scrutinized to determine which immigrants are desirable, and vice versa, from the standpoint of the betterment and continuance of the American nation. The choice between free immigration, restricted immigration, and absolute exclusion is increasingly difficult to make, and does not enter our field of inquiry, except to recall a principle which is as valid from the medical standpoint as from the economic or social. Only those peoples should be admitted whom experience has shown will amalgamate quickly and become genuine citizens. The period of residence necessary for citizenship should be raised from three to five years, during which time the immigrant should be literally on probation, and subject to deportation if found wanting, or if unable to meet the qualifications of citizenship at the end of that time. The government should decide where the immigrant may settle and the immigration current should be directed to the western and farming districts, and not allowed to stagnate in eastern cities.

The great mass of popular literature on the subject of immigration is singularly deficient in discussion and analysis of its medical features. It is true, the United States government bestows on public health and preventive medicine no where near the attention it finds necessary for the prevention of disease in stock and for agricultural improvement, but