That diseased European immigrants are "doctored up" in great
numbers for shipment to this country, is the charge made by Dr.
Maurice Fishberg, of this city, a special inspector of the
immigration service of the United States, who recently returned from
abroad. Dr. Fishberg spent several months in the Old World, visiting
the European terminals of the big transatlantic steamship lines, and
making a special study of the shipping of Russian immigrants across
the German frontier. Inasmuch as a tremendous increase in the
immigration of Russian Jews to this country is under way just now,
Dr. Fishberg's observations are of special importance because of
their timeliness. Most of the things which the doctor saw abroad are
incorporated in a report which he made to the Commissioner General
of Immigration, at Washington. Dr. Fishberg said yesterday at his
home, No. 79 West 115th-st.:
The "curing" of diseased aliens for
admission to the United States has become a tremendous industry
abroad. Ramifications of the business may be found at Liverpool,
London, Southampton, Marseilles and at various frontier cities of
Russia and Austria-Hungary. In these cities I have personally
visited boarding houses and so-called "hospitals" where immigrants
suffering from trachoma in its most advanced stages were being
treated that they might pass inspection and enter the United States.
Trachoma is a disease of the eye of
which America has a special horror. When transplanted to the
tenement regions of New-York City it spreads rapidly and becomes
almost as virulent as in the Orient. By the New-York Board of health
it is especially dreaded, and the authorities at the various
immigration ports of this country are trying with might and main to
keep it out.
In Marseilles the "treatment" of
trachoma has assumed remarkable dimensions. Here most of the
immigrants from the Orient, from Syria, Armenia and neighboring
countries, come on their way to the United States. Most of the
immigrants report to a man by the name of Anton Fares, who refers
them to certain boarding houses. Later they are sent to Dr. G.
Reynaut, No. 20 Boulevard d'Athenče, for examination. Those who are
found free from contagious diseases receive tickets and are at once
shipped to Havre. But as soon as one of these Orientals is
discovered to have trachoma, Fares takes hold of the unfortunate
immigrant and says:
"There are only two ways open to you. You can either go by way of
St. Nazaire to Mexico, where I have agents to conduct you across the
frontier into the United States, or you can go to a doctor here and
get cured. Now, the first plan is expensive and dangerous, but the
doctor is very successful."
Of course the poor fellow goes to
the doctor, who, by the way, does a flourishing business. I met more
than one hundred immigrants every day I visited the clinic. The
charge is one franc for each treatment, and some of these
unfortunate patients have told me that they have been under the
doctor's care for more than two months. When "cured" they are
generally sent to Havre and then shipped to New-York. The treatment
is frequently continued until the immigrant's purse is all but
This business is used also to fleece
the healthy Oriental. Fares has a practice, which, I believe, is
peculiar to himself, of having immigrants treated for trachoma who
have no trachoma at all. These generally have money, and are
referred by Fares to the doctor, who tells him they have trachoma,
but that it is curable. One franc a day is charged for the
treatment, three or four for board and lodging, and this is kept up
for a month. When declared "cured," the victim is charged more than
the usual price for a steamship ticket. Such individuals are, as a
rule, never deported for eye disease, and accordingly become
excellent advertisements for Fares.
This man Fares is well known to the
French authorities, and has repeatedly been under charges for
cheating immigrants. He has a newspaper to boom his business, which
has a wide circulation in Syria. He ships from forty to fifty
immigrants a week, and stops at nothing in dealing with them.
The Russian Hebrew comes to America
chiefly by way of Germany, either sailing directly from Bremen or
Hamburg, or going to England and embarking from a British port.
Little is done at Bremen or Hamburg to patch up immigrants, but at
the stations along the Russian and Austrian borders the practice is
common. I have personally met more than fifty trachomatous
immigrants in a hospital at Thorn, on the Russian-Polish border.
Health certificates have been refused all of them by the steamship
physicians, who told them to go home. When they said, however, that
they had money enough for a "cure," they were sent to a hospital run
by the daughter of a steamship agent. Some of the patients told me
they had stayed there for two months. Few are "cured" in one month.
They pay three marks a day for the use of the hospital and two marks
for medical treatment; $1.25 a day in all. Similar "hospitals" are
found at other control stations on the border, where Russian
immigrants are held up.
In most cases the so-called "cure"
is only temporary. Immediately after the treatment the immigrant's
eyes lose their redness, the inflammation of the eyelids disappears,
and tears cease to flow. Sometimes the "cure" will last only
overnight. In other cases the eyes are not again affected for weeks.
When a Russian Jew who has undergone
such treatment passes the inspection of the German official at the
border, he is frequently sent to New-York, whether he wants to go or
not. He is regarded as the legitimate prey of certain steamship
companies. For example, I have heard such talk as this at the border
Agent:--Where are you going?
Agent--You are a liar; you are going to America. Show me how much
money you've got.
The immigrant produces his money,
which the agent takes, handing back a through ticket to New-York,
and the change, in German money. Of course, the agent gets his
commission from the steamship company. If an immigrant fears that
his eyes will hurt him again he buys a second-class ticket, and so
escapes inspection by the steamship physician at Bremen or Hamburg.
I have often heard steamship agents on the border advise diseased
immigrants to take a second-class passage, which, they say, will get
them through safely.
Other Russian immigrants, fearing
deportation at New-York, manage to get to England and attend eye
clinics at Liverpool and London. Here they are told that Ellis
Island will certainly catch them, but if they go to Boston or
Philadelphia they can land. Some, however, go to Canada, hoping to
reach the United States that way. One Liverpool boarding house is
kept by Andrew Barber, at No. 5 Kent-st. Barber told me that he
could get anybody through. He said the steamship doctors examine the
first cases thoroughly, but let the last few through "easy."
For the purpose of appearing in good shape at Ellis Island, the
American port, and evading the inspectors, immigrants with trachoma
frequently use a drug called adrenaline. This immediately stops the
inflammation of the eyelids by causing local anemia. They carry the
stuff in a vial secreted in their clothes. As its effect soon wears
off, immigrants have to repeat the treatment again and again on the
The use of adrenaline, however, does
not always fool the inspectors, and I believe that at Ellis Island
these fakers are generally caught. The drug gives the eye a certain
paleness which, by an experienced inspector, can be detected.
Dr. Fishberg emphasized the fact that Commissioner Watchorn,
at Ellis Island, was doing all in his power to catch "doctored"
aliens. He said that in his opinion, better work could not be done.
Yet he said Ellis Island should not have to bear the brunt of the
fight against the diseased alien. The law by which a steamship
company was fined $100 for every diseased alien caught aboard, he
said, was not a sufficient deterrent.
"There should be a rigid inspection on the other side," he
said. "Marine Hospital officials ought to be stationed at all the
important immigrant stations of Europe. The Marine Hospital service
of the United States is famous for its efficiency, and it would thus
head off the tide of disease at its source. Naples is the only
European port at the present time where officials of this service
are now stationed, and their vigilant and thorough work there has
let few diseased immigrants through."
The doctor said that such an extension of the Marine Hospital
service had been strongly recommended by Mr. Sargent, the
Commissioner General of Immigration, who, he added, was doing all
that was possible to "keep the shores of America clean."