Attorney Sims on National Legislation
In order to overcome the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court, which so seriously crippled the action of the Federal authorities in the prosecutions of procurers, and also to employ the powers of the Federal Government over interstate commerce, Hon. Edwin W. Sims, of Chicago, the United States District Attorney, who has been so active in bringing this class of criminals to justice, has prepared a bill which is intended to meet the situation.
In a letter to the chairman of the National Vigilance Committee, dated December 2, 1909, Mr. Sims says: "Some weeks ago, when you were in the city, I stated to you that after having studied the situation with some care, I had just about reached the conclusion that Congress had power to enact legislation which would go a long way toward stamping out the white-slave traffic. Since my conference with you, I have taken up the matter with Congressman James R. Mann, of Chicago, who is chairman of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the House. For a number of years he was a member of the committee and is exceptionally well posted upon the powers of Congress under the commerce clause of the Constitution. The result of several conferences with him has been the preparation of a bill which he proposes to introduce at the opening of Congress.
( 13) The bill has for its purpose the prevention of the white-slave traffic in so far as it at the time seems possible to do through the exercise of the power of the Government to control interstate and foreign commerce.
The bill as drafted makes it a crime, punishable $5000 or imprisonment of not more than five years or by both punishments, in the discretion of the Court, to transport or aid in transporting in interstate or foreign commerce any woman nor girl for the purpose of prostitution, debauchery, or other immoral purpose. It also makes it a similar offense to procure or aid in procuring a ticket to be used by a woman or girl in interstate or foreign commerce in going from one place to another in furtherance of a purpose that she shall practice prostitution. A more drastic remedy — a fine of not more than $10,000 and imprisonment for not more than ten years — is provided in case of girls under 18 years of age.
Still another section is aimed to offset the effect of the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, holding unconstitutional the provision of the immigration act prohibiting, under severe penalties, the harboring of alien prostitutes within three years after their arrival in this country. It was held that this was an improper invasion of the police power of the State.
Congressman Mannís bill proposes to provide for the filing of a statement by the keeper of a house of prostitution who harbors an alien prostitute within three years of her arrival in this country with the Commissioner General of Immigration, and to make it an offense, punishable by fine and imprisonment, to fail to file such a statement. This provision finds its support in the treaty adhered to by this country June 6, 1908, and proclaimed by President Roosevelt on June 15, 1908, known as the "Treaty Series No. 496 — An agreement between the United States and other Powers for the repression of the trade in white women." This treaty has for its purpose "to assure to women who have attained their majority and are subjected to deception or constraint, as well as minor women and girls, an efficacious protection against the criminal traffic known under the name of trade in white women — traite des blanches." One of the provisions of the treaty is that "the Governments agree also, within the limits of the laws, to return to their country of origin those of such women or girls who ask their return or may be claimed by persons having authority over them." It is pointed out that the provision for filing such statements is within the scope of the treaty.
It is my belief that a law similar to that proposed would result in breaking up to a large extent this immoral traffic in this country.
I am writing to you thus fully on this subject for the reason that Congressman Mannís bill strikes at the white-slave traffic from a national and an international standpoint. In view of this fact, it occurs to me that the matter of urging the passage of the bill is one which more properly should be taken up by your association having to do with this traffic."
In view of the importance of this matter we urge our friends everywhere to send personal letters to their representatives in Congress asking them to favor Mr. Mannís bill.