The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. I have a report from the State Department this morning on some discussions we carried on as to restriction of immigration in some particulars. I will sketch the report and copies of it will be available to you immediately after the conference.
At my request the Department of State examined the operation of the immigration laws of the United States under existing conditions of employment in this country, particularly so far as the administration of the laws rests upon the Department.
The consular officers of the Department have the duty of issuing visas to intending immigrants who show themselves entitled to entry under the laws of the United States. The only important provision of our law as to immigration is that one requiring the exclusion of those who are liable to become public charges. In normal times an applicant for admission, if an able-bodied worker who means to work and has sufficient funds to support himself until he gets to his destination, would be admitted without particular stress, but in abnormal times like the present we are endeavoring to cut down on aliens who may prove to become public charges.
Therefore, the State Department has called a conference of its consular officers to tighten up on that provision. In March 1929, it was taken in hand in respect to Mexico, and Mexican immigration, as you know, has very greatly diminished as a consequence. For some time it has been tightened up in immigrants coming from Canada. Further extension of it lies largely in the European field. The administration made recommendations to Congress in the last session as to restriction that might be made and, while the committees were favorable, no action was taken. And this will at least carry over until Congress can consider the question.
The statement itself will carry its own explanation so I don't think it is necessary for me to be quoted.
There is some background here that might be helpful. This method of tightening up the volume of immigration of persons who are certain to be public charges will not affect preferences given to relatives under the law. It is obvious that relatives of residents in the country are not likely to become public charges.
I might add that practically all countries suffering from unemployment have tightened their immigration restrictions in the past few months--Canada and most of the European countries. There seems to be a general realization that each country should take care of its own problem and, while there is no denial of immigration at large, it is merely a tightening against persons likely to fall in the class of public charges. How far it will affect the volume of immigration cannot be told now but it will have a material effect, especially on the labor group. And that is all I have today.
Note: President Hoover's one hundred and thirty-ninth news conference was held in the White House at 12 noon on Tuesday, September 9, 1930. See 1929 volume, Item 295. [APP Note: Item 295 in the 1929 Public Papers of the Presidents was the Annual Message to the Congress on the State of the Union, which contains a passage on "restriction of immigration" in which Hoover critiques quotas.]
On the same day, the White House also released a text of the report on immigration by the Department of State, which follows:
At the request of the President, the Department of State has examined the operation of the immigration laws of the United States under existing conditions of employment in this country, particularly so far as the administration of the laws rests upon the Department.
The consular officers of the Department at foreign posts have the duty of issuing visas to intending immigrants who show themselves entitled to entry under the laws of the United States. About 150,000 immigrants, as defined in the law, entered last year from countries included in the quota and about 60,000 from non-quota countries.
The only important provision of our law as to immigration, the application of which changes or may change with fluctuations of employment in the United States, is that provision requiring the exclusion of those applicants for the right to immigrate who, if admitted, are liable to become a public charge. (This provision applies to immigration from quota and non-quota countries.)
In normal times an applicant for admission to the country (not otherwise ineligible) if he appears to be an able-bodied person who means to work and has sufficient funds to support himself and those dependent on him until he gets to his destination in that part of the United States where he is going, would be admitted without particular stress being placed on whether he has other means of support. But in abnormal times, such as the present, where there is not any reasonable prospect of prompt employment for an alien laborer or artisan who comes hoping to get a job and to live by it, the particular consular officer in the field to whom application for a visa is made (upon whom the responsibility for examination of the applicant rests), will before issuing a visa have to pass judgment with particular care on whether the applicant may become a public charge, and if the applicant cannot convince the officer that it is not probable, the visa will be refused. If the consular officer believes that the applicant may probably be a public charge at any time, even during a considerable period subsequent to his arrival, he must refuse the visa--although the applicant need not by such refusal lose the advantage of his priority of application (such applications are acted on in order of date of application) and may get his visa when employment conditions again become normal.
In March 1929, it became apparent that many of those applying for admission to the United States from Mexico and certain similar places were laborers who ran real risk of becoming public charges if admitted in the United States. After conferences of the consular agents in Mexico on the subject, because of this requirement of the law (and certain other legal grounds for exclusion operative against all immigrants from whatever country) Mexican labor immigration to the United States in accordance with the law has now practically ceased. Similar conferences have more recently been held among our Canadian consulates and Canadian labor immigration is failing off markedly.
Committees of Congress at its session recently ended, at the informal suggestion of the Executive, considered several plans for temporary restriction of immigration, including one plan to cut the quotas in half as an emergency measure for 1 year. This had the approval of the administration but was not adopted. Since congressional determination of policy on the point is thus postponed, the Department has called conferences of our consuls in Europe in the quota countries to consider the subject of administration of this "public charge" clause in the light of existing conditions here. These conferences and the inauguration of these measures will result in a slackening of labor immigration to the United States. They will not disturb the preferences granted by law to incoming relatives of citizens of the United States.
Herbert Hoover, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/211647