Jacob Billikopf The Life, Work, and Writings of Jacob Billikopf

The Lodge Immigration Bill -- by Jacob Billikopf for The Jewish South Newspaper
By Jacob Billikopf (The Russian Boy)

Published February 18, 1898
Jewish South Weekly Newspaper of Richmond, Virginia

The passage of the Lodge Immigration bill by the Senate a fortnight ago, providing that "all persons physically capable and over 16 years of age who cannot read and write the English language or the language of their native or resident country," shall be denied admittance into the United States cannot but occasion the most serious discomfort.  It inaugurates a species of class legislation from which the country has been so far free, except in the single instance of the anti-Chinese law.  As for the former case the country must inevitably suffer from the wrong committed to pacify labor agitators.

   That the language of the act will exclude Russian Jews who have failed in their native country to acquire the Russian or English tongue, is an indubitable fact that was understood by the solons who prepared the conference report.  They have deliberately undertaken to frame the statute so that knowledge of any other language cannot avail the Russian Jew, after he is denied the opportunity of attending school in his native city or village, but who simply studies another dialect in which masterpieces of literature have been rendered, which has surpassed any other language, and one form which the most learned scholars of the past and the present have derived and still derive their most beautiful thoughts.

   That too many immigrants are "illiterate" and are "birds of passage"  have reached our shores may be true.  But Russian Jews certainly come here to remain as citizens and prove their capacity for citizenship.  They are not voluntarily illiterate.  Their first thought is to send their children to school as soon as they come to this country.

   These poorly-informed representatives of the people, these demagogues, who framed the bill, are doing a mischief which sterling Americans will regret as long as this law shall remain on the statute book.  In conclusion, I must say that the immigration law is one of the most disingenuous bits of legislation that has ever been recorded on the statute book since the United States was a republic.



Jacob Billikopf The Life, Work, and Writings of Jacob Billikopf

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