National Geographic : 1912 Jan
OUR IMMIGRATION LAWS AND NATIONAL EUGENICS eases, we ought to amend our laws so that it will be possible to exclude more aliens of such low vitality and poor phy sique that they are eugenically undesira ble for parenthood. The law of 1907 excludes persons "who are found to be and are certified by the examining sur geon as being mentally or physically de fective, such mental or physical defect being of a nature which may affect the ability of such alien to earn a living." This clause has been found to be rather ineffective, partly because it has been taken to be an economic test and not a physical one; partly because of other provisions in the same act which largely nullify this section by making it possible to admit on bonds aliens who fall into the group here named. Now aliens of such low vitality, poor physique, or suffering from such mental or physical defect that their ability to earn a living is thereby interfered with are, in the majority of cases, highly un desirable persons. They are not only themselves weaklings and unlikely to re sist disease, but they are likely to have defective and degenerate children. Bonds will not prevent them from breeding. We constantly speak of the need of more "hands" to do our labor. We for get that we are importing, not "hands" alone, but bodies, also. The vast ma jority of incoming alien immigrants are potential fathers and mothers, and the character of the race that is to be born depends upon the kind of alien bodies which we are allowing to have landed on our shores day by day. .It is a tre mendous responsibility which rests upon us. Conservation of our natural resources: how much we hear about that. Conser vation of American forests is important. So is conservation of American coal, and oil, and natural gas, and water supply, and fisheries. But the conservation and improvement of the American race is vastly more important than all other conservation. The real wealth of a na tion is the quality of its people. Of what value are endless acres of forests, mil lions of tons of coal, and billions of gallons of water if the race is not virile, and sane, and sound? Fearfully misguided has been most of our so-called philanthropy. We have housed and clothed and fed the defec tive, the degenerate, the delinquent, to such an extent that we have encouraged them to reproduce their kind in ever growing numbers. We have spent in creasing sums for asylums, almshouses, prisons, and hospitals, in which we have temporarily confined the insane, the pau per, the habitual criminal, the imbecile, leaving them free, during most of their lives, to propagate their kind. It is a fact, disguise it as we will, that we have taxed 'ourselves to support institutions which have resulted in increasing and not decreasing the number of the unfit. We have before us an immediate duty of tremendous importance in caring for our own unfit; in seeing to it, by ade quate legislation, that the insane, the habitual criminal, the feeble-minded, and similar classes are permanently segre gated, so that they cannot reproduce their kind to be a further burden upon the nation, and in enacting laws which shall prevent the marriage of those whose offspring will be unfit. But, in addition to our own very heavy burden of those who are defective or de generate, we are adding every year, by immigration, many hundreds if not thou sands of aliens whose presence here will inevitably result, because of their own defects or those of their offspring, in lowering the physical and mental and moral standards of the American race. Biologists admit that they have much to learn about heredity. But of some things we are already sure. Enough is known to make it absolutely essential, if the quality of the American race is to be preserved, that there should be a far more careful selection of our incoming alien immigrants, on eugenic grounds, than we have ever attempted. The need is imperative for applying eugenic principles in much of our legis lation. But the greatest, the most logical, the most effective step that we can take is to begin with a proper eugenic selec tion of the incoming alien millions. If we, in our generation, take these steps, we shall earn the gratitude of millions of those who will come after us, for we shall have begun the real conservation of the American race.