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Stowaways on Steamships Entering the United States, A 1911 Report

Stowaways furnish another class of aliens not a few of whom gain admission to this country in violation of law. Despite the vigilance of ships' officers to prevent the concealment of stowaways on board vessels at foreign ports, a considerable number of aliens each year are able to employ this method of securing free passage to the United States.

They succeed in boarding the vessel usually with the connivance of some member of the crew, although sometimes they are assisted by outside parties who, for a consideration, smuggle them on board. As a rule, they are persons coming within one of the two following classes: Those who have been rejected at the foreign port as ineligible under the immigration law to land in this country; those who are without sufficient funds to pay their passage and are unable to secure employment as members of the crew.

Unless protected by the employees who assisted them to embark, they are usually discovered during the voyage and on arrival in port are reported to the immigration authorities. It not infrequently happens, however, that through the collusion of members of the crew stowaways remain undiscovered during the voyage, and upon the arrival of the vessel in port are smuggled ashore without inspection by the immigration officials and in Violation in many instances, of the provisions of the immigration law, which forbid their landing.

As illustrative of this practice, the following instances are cited: On July 5, 1907, the steamship Estonia arrived at New York from the port of Libau Russia. According to the statements made by Wilhelm Kisling, Heinrich Seibert, Heinrich Rudolf, and Johannes Helwig, they were among 40 or 50 aliens who had been rejected by the authorities at the port of embarkation and who were subsequently smuggled aboard ship by a woman named.

Libowitz and a shoemaker named Brandman, in collusion with members of the crew, Kisling paid Brandman 50 rubles ($25) to place him and his 16-year-old nephew, Heinrich Funken, aboard the vessel and he then had to pay a fireman named Philip 60 rubles ($30) to take them as far as Rotterdam. At the latter port, he had to pay the fireman a like sum for bringing them to New York.

During the voyage, they mingled with the other steerage passengers and were supplied with meals in the regular way. On their arrival here, Kishng, his nephew, and two girls in male attire, after paying 5 rubles ($2.50) each, were brought ashore at about 9 o'clock at night on one pass made out for all.

The others, Seibert, Rudolf, and Helwig, declared that they each paid 110 rubles ($55) to the Libowitz woman at Libau for assistance in smuggling them aboard the vessel. On arrival here they were brought ashore on separate passes, along with 6 members of the crew, after payment of 5 rubles ($2.50) each.

These three, with Kisling, were accidentally found at the Grand Central Station in New York, ready to purchase their tickets for the West. They were arrested on a telegraphic warrant and taken to Ellis Island. A medical examination disclosed that all were afflicted with trachoma, a dangerous contagious disease, and their deportation was ordered.

The nephew, Funken, had already succeeded in making his escape, as had also the girls in male attire. All the others who had likewise been rejected at Libau because of being afflicted with trachoma, had been smuggled ashore here through the assistance of the crew.

Another case was that of Jan Gedmin (?) and Paulina Flachs, who arrived at New York-the latter in male attire--on the Russian volunteer fleet steamer Saralov on July 14, 1907, as stowaways. They were caught on the dock while trying to escape. When brought to Ellis Island both were found to have trachoma and were deported.

Under the regulations in force during the period covered by the present investigation, stowaways were treated by the immigration authorities in the same manner as were regular immigrant passengers.

They were subject to the same rules regarding manifesting, certification of head tax, and medical inspection. Upon examination, those who were found to be qualified under the immigration law to enter the United States were allowed to do so, while those who were found to be ineligible to land were excluded from the country and ordered deported.

It should be remembered, however, that not all stowaways were reported, and since those who were not reported are more likely, as indicated by the instances cited, to have been persons coming within one of the excluded classes, it is probable that the total number of ineligible aliens entering this country as stowaways was much greater, during the period mentioned, than the number of alien stowaways who were properly allowed to land.

Those aliens who were eligible to land here, who became stowaways for the purpose merely of securing a free passage to the United States, were not so likely to remain undiscovered and unreported as were those who had been rejected at the foreign port and had smuggled themselves aboard ship for the purpose of securing an entrance into this country in violation of law.

Under the regulations in force during the period covered by the present investigation, stowaways were treated by the immigration authorities in the same manner as were regular immigrant passengers.

They were subject to the same rules regarding manifesting, certification of head tax, and medical inspection. Upon examination, those who were found to be qualified under the immigration law to enter the United States were allowed to do so, while those who were found to be ineligible to land were excluded from the country and ordered deported.

The rule of the Bureau of Immigration in effect at that time was as follows:

[Immigration Laws and Regulations of July 1, 1907, second edition.]

RULE 23. Stowaways.-The Immigration act contains no provision expressly relating to stowaways. Such persons must be dealt with, therefore, if they seek adm1Bslon to the United States, precisely as other aliens are dealt with.

Allen stowaways must be reported and manifested by the masters of vessels, immediately upon arrival at a port of the United States, in the same manner as other aliens: Provided, however, that the name of every such person shall be followed by the word “stowaway." Head tax shall be certified on their account, and they shall be examined under the immigration act touching their right to enter the United States.

Within a year, the practice of the immigration authorities with respect to stowaways had entirely changed. Stowaways were no longer regarded as incoming immigrants to whom the provisions of the immigration law were applicable, but were held upon the vessels, which brought them and returned, without examination or medical inspection, to the ports from which they had come. The reasons for this change of policy are given in the new rule which was then adopted, and which is as follows:

[Immigration Laws and Regulations of July 1, 1907. fifth edition.]

RULE 23. Allen Stowaways.-The Immigration act contains no provision relating in terms to stowaways, and the sections thereof prescribing Inspection of applicants for admission do not, as a general rule, cover their cases. There are two good and sumclent reasons for refusing to examine stowaways:

  1. By stealing passage they not only evade on their own account, but make it Impossible for vessel omclals to observe the mandatory' terms of sections 9 and 12 to 15, requiring medical Inspection and detailed manifesting at the foreign port of embarkation, so that they occupy the status of persons who have failed to comply with plain provisions of law, an observance of which is necessary to a proper Inauguration of their Inspection under section 16; and
  2.  even aside from the fact that stowaways thus come before the immigration officials as violators of the law, they are persons obviously falling within the excluded classes named In section 2 In every Instance, at least to the extent that they are persons who are assisted by others to come," and with respect to whom It would be practically Impossible to show "affirmatively and satisfactorily" that they do not belong to the excluded classes.

 

Therefore, alien stowaways shall not, as a rule, be examined or permitted to land at ports of the United States, nor shall head tax be certified on their account. The masters of vessels immediately upon arrival shall report to the immigration officer in charge the names of any alien stowaways on board, and shall take every precaution to prevent their landing, subject to the penalty prescribed by section 18, holding them on board the vessel until It departs from the United States.

While these regulations cover all ordinary cases of stowaways and will in practice be found to be of almost universal application, yet cases may rarely arise In which the alien, though a stowaway, may nevertheless be entitled to inspection and to admission If found to belong to none of the excluded classes.

For example, the alien, though originally a stowaway, may have been, because of the particular facts of his case, accepted by the vessel as a passenger and manifested In such a way as to substantially comply with the law, or may have been employed as a member of the crew, or the causes which led the alien to stowaway may have been such as to bring his case within the first proviso to section 2 of the Immigration act, and entitle him to special consideration. Exceptional cases of this character should be promptly brought to the attention of the department, with a full statement of facts and a request for instructions.

“Alien Seamen and Stowaways: Stowaways.” In Abstracts of Reports of the Immigration Commission, Volume II, Document No. 747, 61st Congress, 3rd Session, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1911, Pages 363-366

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