Nonfiction > Jacob A. Riis > The Battle with the Slum > Page 206
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Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914).  The Battle with the Slum.  1902.

Page 206
 
wrote, when her father lay dead: “The little scamps of the street have been positively pathetic; they have made such shy, boyish attempts at friendliness; one little chap offered to let me hold his to while it was spinning, in token of affection,”—when I read that, I have not the heart to shut anybody out.
  Except, of course, the unfit, the criminal, and the pauper, cast off by their own, and the man brought over here merely to put money into the pockets of the steamship agent, the padrone, and the mine owner. We have laws to bar these out. Suppose we begin by being honest with ourselves and the immigrant, and respecting our own laws. The door that is to be shut is over yonder, at the port where they take ship. There is where the scrutiny is to be made, to be effective. When the door has been shut and locked against the man who left his country for his country’s good, whether by its “assistance” or not, and when trafficking in the immigrant for private profit has been stopped, then, perhaps, we shall be better able to decide what degree of ignorance in him constitutes unfitness for citizenship and cause for shutting him out. Perchance then, also, we shall hear less of the cant about his being a peril to the republic. Doubtless ignorance is a peril, but the selfishness that trades upon ignorance is a much greater. He came to us without a country, ready to adopt such a standard of patriotism as

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