THE SUPREME COURT DECISION
On the 5th of April, 1909, a case was decided in the Supreme Court of the United States which is of great interest to all who are endeavoring to suppress the traffic women.
Two men named Joseph Keller and Louis Ulman were convicted in Chicago under the Immigration Act of February 20, 1907, for harboring an alien woman for immoral purposes. Their counsel took the case on appeal to the United States Supreme Court, which rendered a decision in favor of the appellants.
The Immigration Act states that "whoever shall keep, maintain, control, support or harbor in any house or other place, for the purpose of prostitution, of for any other immoral purpose, any alien women or girl, within three years after she shall have entered the United States, shall, in every such case, be deemed guilty of a felony, and on conviction thereof be imprisoned not more than five years and pay a fine of not more than five thousand dollars."
The majority of the Supreme Court, through Justice Brewer, in their interpretation of the law, held that the question was one of constitutionality; that Congress had no power to punish the offence charged, as the jurisdiction is solely with the State. In the American constitutional system the power to establish the ordinary regulations of police has been left with the individual States and cannot be assumed by the national government.
The court ordered the judgments reversed and the case remanded with instructions to quash the indictment. It is understood that the men were thus set free.
It is interesting to not that Justice Holmes, for himself and two others, Moody and Harlan, read a dissenting opinion, thus causing the court to stand six to three, Justice Holmes says: "I think that Congress may require, as a condition of the right to remain, good behavior for a certain time in matters deemed by it important to the public welfare and of a kind that indicates a pre-existing habit that would have excluded the party if it had been known. Therefore, I am of the opinion that it is within the power of Congress to order the deportation of a woman found living an immoral life within three years from the time of arrival.
The first effect of this important decision was one of discouragement, but this gave way to a condition of cheerfulness and hope on the part of those who are striving to suppress the traffic in women, and for two other reasons:
First, although the immediate effect of the decision has been to set some criminals free, still there is excellent legal authority for saying that it is clear from a careful reading of the decision that Congress has power to enact a much broader law than that now on the statute books.
Second, the decision has given rise and force to a general movement every state in the Union to enacting a "Pandering Law" even more stringent in its provisions than the Federal statute. Several States also which possess such a law have endeavored
( 10) to make it broader. This is the case in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Colorado and Missouri, while excellent acts have been passed in North and South Dakota, Connecticut and Minnesota. Other states whose Legislatures have been in session this spring have had the matter before them, and the governors of all have had the subject brought to their attention. By the time the Legislatures meet next winter a model law will have been presented to the members of them all, with the hope that within two years every important State in the Union will have enacted laws the enforcement of which will result in the suppression of the white slave traffic, so far as it is possible while prostitution is permitted in our cities.
Therefore, as so often happens, that which seemed at first
a serious blow to our movement will be so managed as to bring about the desired
result by a more direct route and with more certain results.