Both of our great national parties are side-stepping one of the nation's greatest problems, partly because they are afraid of it, and partly because it is not a popular issue. Yet immigration regulation is one of the unsolved questions of our time and, as yet, there seems to be no satisfactory solution. We feel deeply the lack of raw immigrants every day, when we are forced to pay unheard of wages to the unskilled laborers. Yet in times when we have had immigration, we felt equally keenly how they tended to lower our standards of living. Conditions on the East Side of New York were unbelievable. In 1914, there were more Russian Jews there than in the city of Warsaw, and more Italians than in the largest city in Italy. Immigrants were coming in at the rate of one million a year. The problem was how to transform them into Americans.
Today they are coming in at the rate of more than four thousand a day. The question throws itself upon us as it never has before. Some definite stand must be taken. Are we to allow it or not? Either policy has its advantages and disadvantages.
S. L. Gulick, secretary of the National Committee for Constructive Immigration Legislation, suggests a plan of restricted immigration whereby we would take the figures of the percentage of each race nationalized and admit them in proportion. The immigrants of those countries who have shown themselves to be easily assimilated would be admitted in larger numbers than those who are difficult to Americanize. This plan deserves consideration. We know that it would tend to admit those immigrants that we desire and keep out these whom we do not. He also suggests that we admit more immigrants at times when we need labor than in times when labor is plenteous, but this idea seems filled with many objections. Great confusion would result. It would work hardships on the immigrants. Labor conditions are apt to be parallel in different countries, and at times when we most needed them they would not want to come and vice versa.
The question is a knotty one. We want cheap labor without its accompanying conditions. We want to eat our cake and keep it, too. A prompt decision is imperative