The Fulford File: Why No Dillingham Commission Before Gangsters’ Amnesty/ Immigration Surge Bill?

Dr. Thomas Sowell referred in his latest column [Abstract Immigrants, June 4, 2013] to the Dillingham Commission—technically the United States. Immigration Commission, which sat from 1907-1910 to examine the state of immigration to the US during what we think of as the Ellis Island or “Melting Pot” era. He wrote:

A hundred years ago, the immigration controversies of that era were discussed in the context of innumerable facts about particular immigrant groups. Many of those facts were published in a huge, multi-volume 1911 study by a commission headed by Senator William P. Dillingham.

That and other studies of the time presented hard data on such things as which groups' children were doing well in school and which were not; which groups had high crime rates or high rates of alcoholism, and which groups were over-represented among people living on the dole. [VDARE.com Links added]

Sowell, the author Migrations and Cultures: A World View, probably knows more about the history of immigration than anyone in the United States Senate.

The Dillingham Commission’s reports (there are 41 volumes) are now online, scanned from the copies in the New York Library, and uploaded to Archive.org.

Click here to read them.

Here’s a list:

  • [v. 1-2] Abstracts of reports of the Immigration Commission.
  • [v. 3] Statistical review of immigration, 1820-1910.
  • [v. 4] Emigration conditions in Europe.
  • [v. 5] Dictionary of races of peoples.
  • [v. 6-25] Immigrants in industries.
  • [v.26-27] Immigrants in cities.
  • [v.28] Occupations of the first and second generation of immigrants in the United States. Fecundity of immigrant women.
  • [v.29-33] The children of immigrants in schools.
  • [v. 34-35] Immigrants as charity seekers.
  • [v. 36] Immigration and crime.
  • [v. 37] Steerage conditions. Importation and harboring of women for immoral purposes. Immigrant homes and aid societies. Immigrant banks.
  • [v. 38] Changes in bodily form of descendants of immigrants.
  • [v. 39] Federal immigration legislation. Digest of immigration decisions. Steerage legislation, 1819-1908. State immigration and alien law.
  • [v. 40] The immigration situation in other countries.
  • [v. 41] Statements and recommendations submitted by societies and organizations interested in the subject of immigration

They’re all there, though I haven’t added links to every one. If you download the PDF, you can read them on your iPad, but there are also plain text versions which are easier to search. (For example, v. 36, Immigration and crime , quotes The Problem of the Black Hand , by Arthur Woods, McClure’s Magazine, May 1909. I found that article by searching the plain text for the words “Black Hand”—an old way of saying “Mafia.”).

Sowell continued:

Such data and such differences still exist today. Immigrants from some countries are seldom on welfare but immigrants from other countries often are. Immigrants from some countries are typically people with high levels of education and skills, while immigrants from other countries seldom have much schooling or skills.

Nevertheless, many of our current discussions of immigration issues talk about immigrants in general, as if they were abstract people in an abstract world. But the concrete differences between immigrants from different countries affect whether their coming here is good or bad for the American people.

Not only has Congress made no attempt to do anything like the Dillingham Commission: Jason Richwine was fired from the Heritage Foundation for asking the same questions that Senator Dillingham answered, all those years ago.

As a result, at least in part of Dillingham’s deep study of immigration, and also as a result of years of patriot activism by the Immigration Restriction League, among others, Congress passed, and Calvin Coolidge signed the Immigration Restriction Act Of 1924—see my 2001 article The (First) Thirty Years War For Immigration Reform.

As a result, there the a forty-year Great Pause in immigration, allowing immigrants to be assimilated, and various segments of American society to catch up.

In The American people: the findings of the 1970 census, (1974) New Yorker writer E.J. Kahn, Jr  wrote

In an unbiased sort of way, the Census Bureau is one of the most race-conscious institutions functioning in the country. Nearly all its findings are uncompromisingly broken down in terms of black and white. (It is one of the nation's biggest remaining users of the word "Negro," to which its computers have become stubbornly accustomed.)

 One can hardly look at any Bureau publication without being reminded that in just about every measurable respect the white majority of the United States enjoys bulging advantages over the 22,500,000 blacks who constitute our largest, most troubled, and most troubling minority. It was not until 1930 that blacks caught up with their foreign-born white co-residents, but by 1970, they enjoyed a two-to-one edge over that segment of the population." [The Race Gap, p.219, emphasis and links added]

Catching up in 1930 was the effect of the 1924 Act. The immigration cut-off was good for blacks, who hadn’t been able to compete with the European influx.

Similarly, John Derbyshire, writing about immigration’s effect on the “Today’s Forgotten Men—The American White Working Class”:

There was the Great Wave of European immigration that petered off in WW1, then ended decisively with the 1924 Immigration Act. By that time, though, the Great Migration of rural blacks from the South was under way, keeping up the supply of cheap factory labor until the Depression, which ended with WW2.

The 20 years following WW2 are looked back on by nostalgists of the Pat Buchanan stripe as a golden age for U.S. labor, with well-paying jobs for all able-bodied citizens (including even a second phase of the Great Migration). 

And the 1965 Immigration Act ended it all. Kahn’s census book was about a census taken five years after Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration Act Of 1965. Paradoxically, part of the reason for the passage of the Act was the Civil Rights movement. Immigration restriction, particularly the part about National Origins, was seen as racism, racism was bad, therefore…we should import workers from all over the world to displace blacks? (I said it was paradoxical.)

The intent of the Civil Rights Movement was to benefit blacks, not Mexicans, after all. But almost all the rhetoric about the Schumer/Rubio Amnesty/ Immigration Surge bill has been about how good it will be for the immigrants, who can “come out of the shadows” etc.

As Sowell goes on to point out: "The very thought of formulating immigration laws from the standpoint of what is best for the American people seems to have been forgotten..."

Well, not so much forgotten as forbidden. Finding out the facts about immigrants is forbidden, and appealing to the interests of Americans is frequently considered racist. But immigration restriction is good for Americans of all races—it’s just that minorities are, in  the classic phrase, “hardest hit.”

Congress should have studied the effects of mass immigration on America before considering a monstrosity like the Schumer-Rubio Amnesty/ Immigration Surge bill.

If it did so, it will find, as Coolidge found, that it would make more sense to stop legal immigration than to open the floodgates to illegal immigration.

And if Congress feels it doesn’t have time to do a modern study of immigration, it can use the 41 volumes of the Dillingham Commission.

Because, while the steamships have been superseded by planes, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire isn’t around anymore, the basic facts about immigrants and immigration haven’t changed.

James Fulford [Email him] is a writer and editor for VDARE.com.