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Chapter XII.

LEGAL AND SOCIAL STATUS OF FOREIGNERS - IMMIGRATION.

The legal status of foreigners has been so well defined by Monsieur Daireaux, who resided ten years in the Argentine Republic, that it will be again of interest to quote from his book, “ Life and Customs of the River Plate :"

At the close of the year 1880, Chile was at war with Peru, and nearly the whole territory of the latter country was under the dominion of the first. There had been battles fought in Charrillos and Mirraflores, near the city of Lima, the Chilean army coming out again victorious. They found that among the prisoners of war taken were some Frenchmen and Italians, and without pity, they were put to the sword by the Chinese who accompanied the Chilean army. The news of this slaughter caused a profound sensation throughout the American continent. Nowhere else was the indignation greater than in the city of Buenos Aires. A committee of the press was formed to protest against this violation of American law. This committee instructed me to write the protest, which was read at a public meeting and transmitted afterwards to the French and Italian representatives in Lima and Santiago.

The spirit which animated me as a foreigner, who had resided on American soil, enjoying all the rights and privileges to which any native could pretend, inspired me with the idea of summing up the principles of American public law in this axiom, the truth of which no one can doubt: “In America, there are no foreigners.

In the Argentine Republic, more than in any other country of America, this principle has a broader application, dominating the public and the civil laws.

In the Argentine Republic, no law obliges the foreigner, who intends residing within its territory, to disown his own flag and become a naturalized citizen. He can, without losing his national identity, acquire property and transmit it to his heirs, without having to pay in any form whatever any special tax on

account of being a foreigner. He can be elected to municipal offices and become a member of the board of directors of State banks. He can exercise all the liberal professions, and act as tutor, administrator, and trustee. He can teach and express his opinions freely in the press. He can join the army or navy, and, in a word, he enjoys all the rights of a free man, except that of being an elector.

Ships of all flags and from all countries can enter and navigate the Argentine rivers, and no restriction is imposed upon foreigners in the management of railroads.

According to the twenty-sixth article of the Constitution, foreigners enjoy all the civil rights of citizens. They can practice their professions, follow every channel of business, acquire and dispose of property, navigate the interior rivers, practice their religion, make wills, and marry in conformity with the law. In no case, are they compelled to become naturalized, and no extraordinary contribution can be exacted from them.

But this is not the only article which guarantees the rights of foreigners. Everywhere, the Constitution employs the term inhabitants of the nation.” It is to the inhabitants of the nation, and not exclusively to its citizens, that the Constitution guarantees all the rights that constitute individual liberty, liberty of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, inviolability of property, of the person, and of the domicile.

Those wishing to enjoy political rights can easily do so. To become a naturalized citizen it is enough to have taken part in an action of war, to have held a public office, built a railroad, been a member of an agricultural colony, or to have married an Argentine woman. Any of these conditions will shorten the two years of residence in the country, which also suffices to acquire naturaliza

tion papers.

Naturalized citizens are exempted by the Constitution from all military service for ten years after naturalization, being thus placed in a better position than the natives themselves, who, the Constitution declares, “are under the obligation of arming themselves in defense of the country and of the Constitution,” and it adds, “naturalized citizens are free to render this service or not for ten years after receiving their naturalization papers.”

The twenty-fifth article of the Constitution declares: “ The Federal Government will encourage European immigration and can not restrict, limit, or tax in any manner whatever the entrance

into Argentine territory of foreigners coming with the object of cultivating the land, of bettering the industries, and of introducing and teaching science and the arts.”

The wisdom of the liberality with which foreigners are treated is freely attested by the number of immigrants who have made their homes in the Argentine Republic.

The following statement shows the number of immigrants who arrived from 1861 to 1891:

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The total number of immigrants then, up to the year 1892, is 1,781,600, which is a very high figure if the total population of the country is taken into consideration. Adding to this number the foreigners arriving as passengers, and the immigrants not recorded (those coming via Montevideo during the years 1857–66 are not counted in the above statement), a round number of 2,000,000 is reached.

The following statement shows the nationalities of the immigrants who came direct from Europe, up to the year 1889:

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Since 1888, Italian immigration has begun to decline, owing to the fact that the Government took measures to encourage

immigration from Northern Europe, so as to equalize as much as possible the number of immigrants of each nationality. Thus, in 1889, Italian immigration represented 40 per cent of the total arrivals, while in 1888, it represented 58 per cent.

The immigration law, which fixes the number of immigrants that can be carried in a steamer, protects the immigrant from the time he embarks until he reaches the place in the Argentine Republic where he wishes to reside.

The department of immigration lands him without cost, shelters him for five days in Buenos Aires, and pays his railroad or steamer expenses to the place where he wishes to settle.

The labor bureau finds employment for those immigrants who desire to be employed, and has a greater demand for immigrants than the number of those who seek employment through its office. Thus, in 1889, there was a demand for 80,821 immigrants, while the bureau only gave employment to 48,668. The remaining 212,241 immigrants who arrived that year found employment without resorting to the labor bureau; which only shows how easily employment can be found in any occupation.

This explains also the high wages that are paid, as these vary according to the supply; the demand for laboring men being always greater than the supply, even in those years when the number of new arrivals has been greatest.

This condition of affairs explains the assertion of Monsieur Daireaux, that “everything is cheap except labor.” Labor, in fact, is as dear, or dearer, than in the United States, although the cost of living is much cheaper.

Regarding the conditions of life of foreigners, Monsieur Daireaux has made the following truthful observations:

One of the things that every foreigner must expect is to become imbued with the spirit of the democratic medium in which he finds himself. It is impossible to escape the transformation. Every foreigner coming from a monarchical or oligarchic country loses, little by little, his traditional ideas, and enters into the life of the country.

This transformation is called being “Americanized.”

The “American ” manner of working is to simplify work and equalize results without seeking perfection, limiting things to what is useful. The "American” way of thinking is to free the imagination from the influence of old legends, to have faith in one's efforts, and not recognize in others more than a relative superiority.

An American (he is speaking of Argentines) will consult the opinion of a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, or any other professional man; but he does not consider himself inferior to any of the above; he simply declares that his occupation does not allow him to gather the knowledge that professional men have, and he buys their advice, as he would buy wheat for his mill or a plow for his land.

Those ideas, which are attributed exclusively to North Americans of English origin, prevail also among Spanish Americans. The latter, as well as the former, recognize no social superiors, and have the same disdain for decorations and titles of nobility.

Many titled families established themselves in the Spanish colonies, and these, as well as the officials of these colonies, never renounced the privilege of carrying a sword and cap, and of engraving their coat of arms on the front of their houses. Very different have been the proceedings of their descendants. They have never given the least importance to these signs of European vanity; and they not only have resigned carrying a sword, but have also taken down their coat of arms and left off using the family titles which made their fathers so proud. They are satisfied to belong to a family founded by some one who acquired distinction during the war of Independence, or by some one who has rendered other important services to the state.

Regarding the officials of the Governments, they never pretend to be especially honored by their office. Their merits and defects are well known, and public opinion places them where their personal qualities place them, notwithstanding the office they hold.

Very soon, the assimilation of the different nationalities takes place, the foreigners adopting the customs of the natives, and these adopting from the former whatever

may

be of value. This assimilation does not prevent the formation by the different colonies of societies and clubs and the establishment of special schools, hospitals, churches, etc. Some

groups have a liking for certain sorts of occupation, not interesting themselves in anything else. Certain agricultural colonies are established exclusively by Swiss, others by Italians, and one is composed exclusively of Welshmen, while, although Frenchmen have not established exclusively any agricultural colony, they predominate in several colonies by their number and influence.

The foreign periodicals, which are published in all languages, in Buenos Aires,

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