thumbnail of People talk back; Is our immigration law meeting our needs or prejudices?, part two
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
It was this sort of situation which caved in all the lead. Abraham Lincoln to lend his support to the newly immigrated Irish and Germans who he felt would eventually become important members of the national community. And it is this kind of past experience that Mr. Hanlon who was himself a historian draws upon in arriving at his conclusion regarding the difficulties of assimilation the one kind of decisive evidence we have is that the adjustment depends first on the length of time that people have in the United States and secondly on the amount of the opportunities that are open to them after they come. The only point to be noticed here I think that is of immediate concern is that a seemingly academic subject
such as history can and does play a pretty basic part in our thinking about really important problems of the present. Now it is pretty obvious to say the least that Congressman Walter or Mr. O'Hanlon have diametrically opposed opinions about the McCarran. Walter act. Nevertheless as we listen to the rest of this discussion we might want to keep in mind the possibility that despite these differences there are some fundamental points on which the two agree. And when I return later in this discussion to compare my notes with yours we might want to examine that possibility in some detail. Let's head west and hear a man from Wisconsin talk back.
He lives in Madison and B Gordon who teaches music. Here is his comment on the immigration law. Congressman Walter I would like to say that I am in agreement with your immigration law because I feel that it is better suited to the present situation that we are confronted with. First I should like to say that I have always been a progressive. I was one of the ardent admirers of Theodore Roosevelt and I was a bull moose are and I gloried in all the progress that was made during his administration. The the progress that has made during the past few years of course has been notable. I think it is possible however for us to make progress too rapidly for example that we have at the present time many national problems for example the the growth of the power of labor is something that is going to confront this country. It may be that someday we'll have a Labor government.
It that comes about I hope it may come about as a result of evolution and other words that come about slowly rather than too quickly because I think if Labor were in power to suddenly labor would not know what to do with this power. In other words I feel that the what we must do is to straighten out our own affairs before we complicate them by bringing in a group of foreigners who may bring with them additional problems that will further complicate our. Situation here. This question raises an interesting thought. A thought is the this what do we mean by our own affairs. Now from a certain point of view we might say that if thousands of Italians in general am
finding it difficult to adjust themselves if there's overpopulation and unemployment in Italy that's not our affair. Well if you look at our budget for 1953 and see the way millions of dollars that were devoting to a reconstruction of a Italian economy. If you look at our foreign policy and see how important a creation of a sound healthy Italy is as a bow arc of our position in Western Europe then it might come to seem to us that Italy is part of our affairs. And if immigration can in the least help us by helping me Italians
then it would seem to me to be very important. Consider seriously what kind of policy would best serve our needs and of course what is true of Italy. It's also true of Greece and of many other parts of the world. And I know the question I was thinking of the mastic problems so many of our domestic problems are today all together wrapped up with foreign policy and with our connections throughout the world that it's hopeless to try to disentangle the two. First Ireland let's keep traveling the west to the state of Washington where we're going to hear Al Smith talk that Mr. Smith is a social worker and community organization specialist. He was chairman of the governor's Committee on displaced persons for the state of Washington for two years.
An ABC producer Robert Morris. KW I see Pullman Washington recorded Mr. Smith's views and here in part is what he had to say. In America we say that we have been the melting pot of the world. How can we say that we are going to continue to be the melting pot of the world if we freeze the quotas on the basis of those people who are already here in other words we're going to allow those individuals to come in who we're lucky enough to have had a fairly large proportion of their fellow countrymen migrate to this country in earlier generations. There is nothing fair about this. And I definitely would feel that until this is corrected we will not have what I would call a truly American immigration law. I suppose this comment was originally addressed through a
congressman I largely in agreement with what Mr Schmick has to say and would not question his judgement really at all. Let's head to south. Yes I have one. Richard S. Kennedy who lives in the Rochester New York was vacationing in Los Angeles a short while ago and he was recorded for our Talk Back program on immigration in the home of a friend. Mr. Kennedy has a suggestion that you will probably want to comment on. We hope you will by way of background to the question I might point out to you who are listening that some of the nations with the largest porters use up less than half of their quota. Is that correct. Fessor HAMLIN Yes sometimes even less than that. I see. Well here's what Mr. Kennedy has to say about the situation Professor Simon.
I remember reading in newspapers about the amendment that was offered by the administration opposing the McCarren Walter Vale in its present form a bad way to have a little bit more fluid quota system. Those countries whose quotas were not used up would have their quotas turned over to other nations. This kind of compromise it seems to me would be a very admirable one and compromise is a great part of our American tradition. This was a well-intentioned compromise and at the time it was offered. I agree with Mr Kennedy that it was a desirable step as a compromise. However I am not so sure
now. I'm not sure it's these are all kind of compromise because it does retain the anachronistic old quota system. And my feeling now is that public sentiment has been so aroused by the question and that the very excess of the McCarren Act have had educational effect an effect that it may be possible to do way with a quota system entirely. Let's show him let's go back to the northwest again where Mr. F. L. Titus a farmer in Pullman Washington heard your statements on immigration and then talked about Robert Morris of kwh see who recorded Mr. Titus wrote us a short note about this recording. I think I better read it.
We drove seven miles out on publice road to the Titus 900 acre farm. As he's called races we didn't feel peace. He was driving his tractor across rich black farmland when we found him. He climbed down out of the cab and went with us to his house and we made the recording in his living room in the first place. Professor Hanlon I'm inclined to feel that you don't. You would prefer not to have any quota. You haven't stated the things you are for your just stated what you're opposed to. Since you've offered no alternate or sub to do plan I kind of feel that your you do favor no quarter. I feel if we were to allow people to come into this country either for political asylum or for our economic
need there should be some basis of determining. The individual Max now us if you're determined on the basis of economic need whose economy is to be the basis of making a determination as to be the American economy standard of living or is it to be the individual's standard of living. From whence you came. If we were to determine it on the individual standard of living I'm afraid we'd have to throw the doors open and allow people to come in. I realize that that would be a fine and lovely attitude but it would be political and economic suicide. Well before I answer Mr. Titus's question properly let me just emphasize again the
dimensions of the problem. What is it we're talking about now. Suppose we were to throw the doors open. Does that mean that millions of Asiatics or Europeans would suddenly descend upon us at once. Certainly not when you think of what the cost of getting from Italy to the United States is at moderate reckoning for a family of five it would take perhaps twenty four hundred dollars. And when you remember. That it would take a very average laborer in ETL a three or four years to earn that amount of money. One can see at once that the notion of a great flood suddenly pouring in upon us is
not very realistic. There is certainly even more true of Asiatics as a matter of fact let's remember for instance that there are millions of depressed peasants in a Western Hemisphere or who are afraid to come to the United States. And all quotas are all on Brazilians or Central Americans and there's many of them could come as we wish but we don't have any particular problem because the conditions that produce immigration simply don't exist there because these people lack the means to come across realistically. What would happen under a more sensible quota system is that. A small number perhaps a larger number than at present but still a small number of people who have friends or relatives
or who are aided by organizations would be assisted to come to the United States because it is only such people in the present conditions who have the means of getting a cross there. Now let me turn to the question proper. What are the alternatives. Well we've had a lot of experience with selecting in the vigils in the last 20 years. We select in the vigils for instance in the army where millions of individuals are taken in our jargon by a variety of tests and are estimated in terms of their capacities or abilities most begin thus trees use various kinds of testing the vices for sorting out their thousands of employees. It would not be difficult. Even the language people of many
different nations and many different cultures to determine which are among them have the qualities. Say Intelligence initiative adaptability a literacy say the qualities that might help them make desirable adjustments to American culture and such qualities certainly ought to play a part in our selection. It would also not be difficult to tell which among these many applicants are have family ties which among them are deserving of asylum. Which among them are the kind of people who would help us politically and so on and using any combination of these qualities.
It would be perfectly possible to drop registers or system of quotas that would draw all of these people in. In terms of their usefulness and their capabilities as individuals. But the one thing that's important is that these people be treated as individuals and not as members out some racial or national group because it's only if we look at them as individuals and not as Irishmen or Germans or Italians or Greeks. Now we will be able to draw upon them in terms of the necessities of our own situation for us to handle and I think I detect a basic similarity in your substitute for the national origin system to the so-called unified quota system recommended by the President's Commission on Immigration and Naturalization.
Now the president's commission also recommended an increase in the overall number of immigrants admitted any given year from something like 150000 under the present law to about 250000. Do you go along with this revised overall quota figure. Well I'm against the idea of having a fixed total that is permanent and unchangeable. My own feeling is that they total ought to vary with a name and a capacity of a United States. The idea of having a single number would be the same in 19 34 when we were in the middle of a depression as it was in 1943 when we were in middle of war and needed all the labor we could get. Seems to me to be in the fact they have to
tie our own hands prevent us from making use of this instrument of policy when we need it. Professor Hanlon I noticed one point on which Congressman Walter and yourself agree that's the setting up of certain requirements for immigration. This matter of setting up certain educational or technical skills as a basis for picking one immigrant over another troubled a number of people in Wisconsin and Washington and California some recall that they themselves or their parents had no special skills at the time they came over. Mr Mrs David Reuben Oh also express concern on the score when they were interviewed by Arthur B Friedman of the department of Theatre Arts in the University of California at Los Angeles. Mr Rubinoff is better known as Rubinoff and his violin. He was brought to this country by Victor Herbert in 1911.
Or I can say is this if this law was in effect then one thin 11 I wouldn't be in this country today. When I was a kid in Russia you couldn't get a good education if you didn't have a lot of money. And they said drew the line and I can tell you that and I know what I'm talking about. When I came to America I had the wonderful privilege isn't going to prop school in Pittsburgh and then to junior high and so on. And it's wonderful. And I can't agree with. For works. I think people should have the opportunity to come to these wonderful and. Do you mind if I have the boss of the family. Mrs Ruben I've seen a few
roods in regard of this situation here. I'd be very happy to include her on this program. When I was a ribbon are. Well there definitely I don't like the bell. It may have good qualities which I'm sure it does. But the main thing I don't believe that a man can sit in Washington or anyplace south and screen the people that are common in this country and their labors are not because there are too many things to judge judging character and what that person how he may grasp is opportunity just as Dave has in this country. He was poor or he would have folks were ignorant and in education but they had at a natural born culture that with handed down for generation and they were eager and seize their opportunities here and I believe that although there are so many qualities but just being a skilled labor. That they would enter into this that no one could say this man will do well or he will not do well.
Well this is a very difficult problem and I have a good deal of sympathy with a point of view of a robot. If we were still living in a period in which free immigration were possible and if we were still capable of taking everyone on Kang I would certainly fail that no test of scales should be married but times are different and we do face problems of selection. I myself would like to see a certain leeway a certain amount of quotas a certain amount of space available to people who have no skills but who have a great burning desire to come to the United States. If I were drawing up a law i would
leave perhaps 15 or 20 percent of places open precisely to that kind of person. And on the other hand. If scales if selection is to be made then I think possession of certain scales might properly be a part of a basis of selection here as in other features of the law. A critical element seems to me to be that which gives considerable leeway to select those kinds of individuals who will best contribute to the welfare of our country. And while this is a great problem it seems to me much less of one than that posed by a national origin a system pressure Helen.
You objected to the five year trial period for the newly naturalized Robert Merton again. This may be a good place to pause for a moment take stock and to reflect on what we have been hearing a little while ago. I think that we might try to look behind the obvious and important disagreement between Mr. Hanlon and Mr. Walker to see if there are any points of underlying agreement. And now it appears that there are. And one of these is of fundamental importance. If this same issue had been argued a short generation ago many would have taken the position that they are in they differences among the peoples of the world and that consequently certain of them should be allowed to enter in greater number than others.
It is quite striking to see that in this discussion no one has taken the stand. Mr Hanlon of course is repeatedly taken the opposite position pointing out that there is no evidence that can be considered satisfactory for the case of such innate differences between ethnic and nationality groups and the people in talking back did not adopt this position. In fact they do not apparently consider it one that even requires a formulation although it is obviously implicit in much of what they do have to say. Mr John who can you see for example the New York barber. Obviously assumes that there are no such basic differences which need to be taken into account.
We in America. Is according to the Constitution and according to the creed of the people we have no prejudice against anybody. We are free people. We don't discriminate anybody. And from all that we can gather from what Congressman Walter has to say he too does not attempt to argue for the belief of such innate differences which would make for certain ethnic groups making better citizens than others. In fact he seems to be arguing quite the contrary in his opening remarks. It is completely free of prejudice of any kind since it treats every individual regardless of his race creed or national origin. On the same basis we do not exclude anyone and we maintain the ethnic composition of our nation as it was created in the melting pot of the
people of all races. And so we see that no one will take up the cudgels in defense of the old doctrine of these innate racial differences. Evidently in the interval since the 20s the findings of science particularly the findings of anthropology and of sociology have entered so deeply into the thinking of Americans that whatever position they take on the current Immigration Act they do adopt the common premise that there are no relevant in the differences which need to be regarded. There are other points of agreement between the two sides which although they are not of the same fundamental character as this one deserves a passing mention. Both sides
agree that there must be some restriction on the volume of immigration. Again a position which would not have been held unanimously 50 or 60 years ago. And finally both sides agree that the skills of immigrants should be taken into account when it comes to allowing some and not others to enter and that this is pertinent to the national interest. These points of agreement should be noted because only if there is a bedrock of agreement among those who are otherwise at sharp odds on particular issues. Only then is it possible to debate political policy and to translate that debate into action which will represent the thinking of the people. Helen you objected to the five year trial period when the newly naturalized
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
People talk back
Is our immigration law meeting our needs or prejudices?, part two
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-bz619c69).
Episode Description
This program, the second of three parts, features Professor Oscar Handlin and U.S. Representative F. E. Walter of Pennsylvania discussing what citizens have to say about Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.
Other Description
This series presents a series of questions posed to politicians about current affairs.
Broadcast Date
Politics and Government
Public opinion--20th century.
Media type
Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Host: Merton, Robert King, 1910-2003
Producer: Tangley, Ralph
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Wheatley, Parker, 1906-1999
Speaker: Handlin, Oscar, 1915-2011
Speaker: Walter, Francis E. (Francis Eugene), 1894-1963
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 53-13-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:42
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “People talk back; Is our immigration law meeting our needs or prejudices?, part two,” 1953-03-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 9, 2022,
MLA: “People talk back; Is our immigration law meeting our needs or prejudices?, part two.” 1953-03-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 9, 2022. <>.
APA: People talk back; Is our immigration law meeting our needs or prejudices?, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from