National Geographic : 1912 Jan
OUR IMMIGRATION LAWS AND NATIONAL EUGENICS be the better for coming. Steamship agents and brokers all over Europe and eastern Asia are today deciding for us the character of the American race of the future. It is no argument against practicing eugenic ideas, in the selection of our alien immigrants, to say that the New England country towns are full of hope lessly degenerate native Americans, who are inferior, mentally, morally, physi cally, to the sturdy peasants of Europe. The degeneracy of our country native stock is probably chiefly due to the draw ing off of the stronger and more capable men and women to the cities; to pro longed inbreeding, and to the continued reproduction of feeble-mindedness, which is rife in many of our country districts. It will not help to reduce the number of our native degenerates if we admit alien degenerates. National eugenics, for us, means the prevention of the breeding of the unfit native, as well as the prevention of the immigration and of the breeding after admission of the unfit alien. CAREFUL, ABOUT IMPORTING CATTLE, CARELESS ABOUT IMPORTING MAN Should we not exercise at least the same care in admitting human beings that we are now exercising in relation to animals, to insect pests, or to disease germs? Yet it is actually true that we are today taking more pains to see that a Hereford bull or a Southdown ewe, imported for the improvement of our cattle, are sound and free from disease than we take in the admission of an alien man or woman who will be the father and mother of American children. We do not hesitate to prohibit the importa tion of cattle from a foreign country where a serious cattle disease is preva lent. It is only in very extreme cases, indeed, that we have ever taken such a step in connection with the importation of aliens. Yet there are certain parts of Europe from which no aliens should be allowed to enter this country, for rea sons which are eugenically of the first importance. Our present laws aim to exclude some twenty-one classes of mentally, physi cally, morally, and economically unde- sirable aliens. On paper the list of the excluded classes is long and formidable, and seems more than sufficient to accom plish our eugenic purposes; but the fact is that careful and unprejudiced students of immigration agree that these laws do nct keep out the unfit so as to preserve the status quo, to say nothing of promot ing eugenic improvement. We already have an army of probably not less than 150,000 feeble - minded in the United States, of whom only about o1 per cent are in institutions, the rest being free to propagate their kind. And of those in institutions, the large proportion are kept there only temporarily, being at liberty for much of the time during their repro duction period. The same is true of thousands of criminals, whom we shut up for varying periods of time, but allow, in the inter vals when they are out of prison, to populate the world with children, much of whose inheritance is criminal. We are today legalizing the begetting of criminal children by failing to give per manent custodial care to habitual crimi nals. Further, there are over 150,000 insane in the institutions of the United States alone, and of these many have already left offspring to perpetuate their insanity. In spite of this appalling situation appalling from the standpoint of mere sentiment and of mere philanthropy doubly appalling from the standpoint of eugenics, we have been admitting alien insane and alien imbeciles, and alien epi leptics and alien criminals, partly because of a lax administration of the law under former administrations, partly because the law is incapable, under existing con ditions, of effective enforcement. The disproportionate increase of alien insane, of alien imbeciles, of alien criminals, and many other facts which may be ascer tained by any person who is interested in this question, shows that, as just stated, our immigration laws do not now enable us to preserve the status quo. Sir Francis Galton has clearly shown that "each married degenerate produces on the average one child who is as de generate as himself or herself, and others in whom the taint is latent, but liable to appear in a succeeding generation."