Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law

By Lucy E. Salyer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Its Own Keeper PROCEDURAL REFORM IN THE BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION

In August 1915, commissioners of immigration from all over the nation came to San Francisco for an "Immigration Consultation," a conference in which they shared their experiences and views in an effort to forge more uniform practices. A. Warner Parker, chief law officer for the Bureau of Immigration, launched the consultation on the first day with an admonition he felt was of utmost importance. The immigration service had to become more uniform in its procedures, but, even more important, it had to place a'high standard on fairness. Parker cautioned, "We have a great responsibility, a great deal of power placed in our hands. There never has been in the history of this country so much power vested outside of the courts as is put in the hands of the Immigration officers and we have to watch ourselves very carefully, and we have to watch every man serving under us to see that that power is not abused."1

Parker's words seem to suggest that, despite growing nativism, the immigrants' critique of the bureau was not without effect. To some extent, the agency by the eve of World War I had adopted more formal legal procedures of the sort advocated by pro-immigrant groups. Some officials supported the move out of a spirit of fairness and a solicitude for aliens' rights. Awed by their own power, several commissioners at the immigration conference agreed that inspectors owed both "the alien and the Government a square deal."2 But even more important, a more legalistic approach

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