IMMIGRATION: Revenge at Ellis Island

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Under the law some 347 Italian and German opera singers, businessmen, musicians and plain citizens were snatched off ships and planes arriving last week in New York, and packed off behind the wire fences of Ellis Island. There they were 800 yards from the Statue of Liberty, and a good deal farther from the land they had hopefully come to see. They were among the first victims of the new restrictions on immigration in the Communist-control bill passed by the Congress over Harry Truman's veto. Italy was outraged; Western Germany was hurt. Both sent protests to Secretary of State Dean Acheson.

The Letter. Harry Truman had warned Congress of just such trouble. Congress had ignored him, overridden his veto by humiliating majorities. Now Harry Truman was gleefully proving his point by enforcing the law to the letter.

The letter of the law did not give much choice. It banned any alien who "at any time" had been "affiliated" with any "section, branch, affiliate, or subdivision" of any "totalitarian party." Under Hitler, nearly every youth was forced to join one or another of the Hitler Youth organizations; nearly every man who worked for a living had to belong to a Nazi-dominated labor union. In Italy, every school was a Fascist school. Officials estimated that the new law would exclude 90% of all Germans, more than half of all Italians. It would bar all repentant Communists, interfere with trade with Yugoslavia, exclude many of the 55,000 German refugees from East Europe, whose admission Congress had just authorized last June.

Republicans cried that Harry Truman was trying to discredit the whole law. The law provided, they pointed out, that the Attorney General might admit aliens temporarily at his own discretion. But the law also specified that he had to make a full report to Congress on each case every time he did so—and no Attorney General was likely to leave himself open to criticism when rigorous enforcement would save him the trouble.

The Uproar. Last week this policy was creating a very satisfactory uproar. As ship after ship steamed into New York harbor, immigration authorities seized one distinguished victim after another. There was Friedrich Gulda, a talented 20-year-old Austrian pianist who had come to give a concert in Carnegie Hall (Gulda had been required to join a Nazi youth group at the age of ten). Famed Conductor Victor de Sabata, who conducted at Tanglewood earlier this year and was coming again as guest conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, had conducted Milan's La Scala orchestra during the Mussolini regime. A German war bride of Philadelphia, returning from a visit to her mother in Germany, was detained because she had belonged to a Hitler youth organization in her teens. The Metropolitan Opera's mezzo-soprano, Fedora Barbieri, was held (she went to a Fascist school).

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