Immigration: Red Tape Bars Our Border

McCarran-Walter Regulations Block Way of Foreign Students

In January of 1953, a Filipino girl studying social work under the exchange plan at a New England college, married an American citizen. The young bride applied for resident alien status, which usually accompanies marriage to a citizen. But in her case, it was not a matter of merely filling out forms; the girl, despite pregnancy, had to return to the Philippines at her own expense in order to qualify for residence. More simply, she had to go so she could stay.

The rationale behind this rigid administration of justice is Public Law 414--passed in the closing days of the 82d Congress, over President's Truman's veto--better known as the McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act. And, it was not narrow interpretation of a broad provision of the law, but explicit instruction that forced immigration officials to make the girl return to the Philippines.

McCarran Walter was written with the laudable object of codifying and unifying her hodgepodge of immigration laws that had existed in the United States since 1917. Equally laudable was the purported aim of clamping down on subversives entering under loopholes in the old statutes. But regardless, the law retains some of the most criticized aspects of former laws, and is accused of even expanding the objectionable provisions of the past through ambiguous, sometimes incomprehensible verbiage.

Quota Openings 'Mortgaged'

Take, for example, the National Origins system, keystone of the entire immigration program, which determines who can come here and who can stay. This archaic method for determining "quotas", the number of immigrants who are allowed here from any one country in any single year, was first devised 30 years ago. It is still based on the 1920 white population.


Its very formulation is unfair, for that populations figure was broken down into national categories, and the determining of these categories was done by surnames. This disregarded how many Janowicz' had become Joneses, or how many Schmidts had become Smiths, and, both Janowicz-Jones and Schmidt-Smiths were changed to the British total. Each nation was then given a percentage of the total quota--150,000--proportionate to the percentage of its "immigrants" than a part of the white population. This excludes the Orient, limited arbitrarily, and the western hemisphere, which has no quotas.

Thus England, whose annual U.S. immigration is about 30,000 was given 65,000 quota vacancies, while sources of heavy potential immigration such as Poland, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and eight other countries shared 24,000 spots. Neither were the 35,000 unused British vacancies redistributed. They were merely wasted, and have been year after year, with the result that while 3,000,000 immigrants have been theoretically admissible by quota, only 836,085, or about 27 percent actually entered.

Such basic difficulties with national origins were further aggravated, strangely enough by a liberal immigration law--the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, which allowed about 400,000 DPs to enter the U.S. In this law the totals from each country were computed, and 50 percent of the quota of each country which sent DPs here was ordered "mortgaged" each year until the total should be accounted for. As an example, only half of Latvia's quota of 235 is now admissable yearly--until the year 2274.

A more recent statute, the Refugee Relief Act, passed last fall, provides for admission of a potential 206,000 newly displaced persons outside of normal quota or "mortgage" provisions. But since then, while $671,000 has reportedly been spent on screening employees, only eight have been admitted, and but 50 visas have been issued.

There are numerous other objections toward McCarran-Walter, particularly in regard to students, foreign scholars as well as exchange "visitors"--who presumably do not wish to remain here. For example, to even obtain clearance to come here to study, the foreign student must pass all of the mental, physical and political requirements demanded of potential immigrants.

Once over this initial hurdle of red-tape, especially high because of frequent language difficulties, the student faces an almost identical barrier on his arrival here. Even after passing the original requirements imposed by the consulate in his country, he could be sent back if he doesn't also fulfill similar ones at the immigration agency in his port of entry.

Last fall, a Chinese national from Singapore ran into such difficulty. As a displaced Nationalist, he was traveling from Singapore on an English certificate of identity. By error, he was landed in Boston, rather than New York, and here immigration officials discovered that his travel document was good for only five months and six days after landing--24 days short of the required six months.

Girl Ordered Deported

Although the British consulate in New York readily granted the necessary extension, the student was deained incommunicado for almost three days, in the Boston detention center, and as a result was late for the opening of his classes at a large mid-western University.

Even once here, the student, both exchange and regular, is not free from worry. According to the law, he must successfully pursue a full course of study at a school approved by Attorney General. (This is no real handicap; for approval, a school must simply file reports of the arrival and departure of foreign students.