Mr. Bayard to Sir L. S. Sackville
Washington, May 7, 1887.
Sir: I have had the honor to receive your note of the 25th ultimo, inquiring whether under existing laws “Irish emigrants sent out at the public cost,” and who have “friends in the United States able to help them and support them, will be allowed to land.”
By section 2 of an act of Congress, approved August 3, 1882, to regulate immigration to the United States, it is provided that the officers charged with the duty of supervising such immigration shall examine into the condition of persons arriving in the ports of the United States, and that “if on such examination there shall be found * * * any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge, they (the officers) shall report the same in writing to the collector of such port, and such persons shall not be permitted to land.”
So far as the permission to land is concerned, the provisions of this act are clear and explicit. The officers charged with its execution are required to make an examination, and upon the result of that examination in each case depends the decision of the question whether the person seeking entrance into the United States shall be permitted to land. It is, therefore, impossible to give any general assurance that persons belonging to a particular class will not be obnoxious to the provisions of the law. The only test therein provided is the ability of the intended immigrant “to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge,” and this test is to be applied impartially to all persons of whatever nationality.
I am, however, constrained to notice that, aside from the enforcement of the act of 1882, your inquiry suggests another question which has heretofore been discussed between the Government of the United States and that of Great Britain, and upon which the views of this Government have been fully set forth.
The economic and political conditions of the United States have always led the Government to favor immigration, and all persons seeking a new field of effort and coming hither with a view to the improvement of their condition by the free exercise of their faculties, have been cordially received. The same conditions have caused other kinds of immigration to be regarded as undesirable, and led to the adoption by Congress of laws to prevent the coming of paupers, contract laborers, [Page 521] criminals, and certain other enumerated classes. Such immigration the economic and political conditions of the United States render peculiarly unacceptable.
In view of this policy and these laws, this Government could not fail to look with disfavor and concern upon the sending to this country, by foreign governmental agencies and at the public cost, of persons not only unlikely to develop qualities of thrift and self-support, but sent here because it is assumed that they have “friends” in this country able to “help and support” them. The mere fact of poverty has never been regarded as an objection to an immigrant, and a large part of those who have come to our shores have been persons who relied for support solely upon the exercise of thrift arid manual industry; and to such persons, it may be said, the development of the country has in a large degree been due. But persons whose only escape from immediately becoming and remaining a charge upon the community is the expected, but entirely contingent, voluntary help and support of friends, are not a desirable accession to our population, and their exportation hither by a foreign Government in order to get rid of the burden of their support could scarcely be regarded as a friendly act, or in harmony with existing laws.
It is proper to say that experience has shown that not unfrequently when helpless and destitute persons have been aided by public funds to come to the United States, upon the supposition that friends and relations here would receive and care for them, such friends and relations have totally failed to appear, and diligent search has been unable to discover them, and the authorities have been compelled under the provisions of the law to return the emigrants to their native country.
I have, etc.,