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Los Angeles Committee for Protection of Foreign Born Records, 1938-1973
MSS 080  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Organizational History
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
  • Bibliography

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Los Angeles Committee for Protection of Foreign Born Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1938-1973
    Collection number: MSS 080
    Creator: Los Angeles Committee for Protection of Foreign Born
    Extent: 17 legal document boxes; 5 2/3 linear feet
    Repository: Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research
    Los Angeles, CA 90044
    Abstract: This is a collection of records from the Los Angeles Committee for Protection of Foreign Born (LACPFB), an organization devoted to preserving the democratic ideals of equality by defending the rights and liberties of the foreign born. The Committee was most active between 1950-1963 during the height of McCarthyism. The Committee's activities centered on repealing the Walter-McCarran Law (1952) and defending its victims. The collection consists of open records commonly distributed for public awareness and participation as well as detailed individual case files, including court proceedings and transcripts of high-profile cases handled by the Committee, such as the Terminal Island Four case. The collection reflects the Committee's legal and public activism between 1950-1973.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Provenance

    It is the Library staff's best judgment that Emil Freed, the Library's founder, received the records in the late 1970s from Rose Chernin, the founder and executive director of the Los Angeles Committee for Protection of Foreign Born.

    Access

    The collection is available for research only at the Library's facility in Los Angeles. The Library is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Researchers are encouraged to call or email the Library indicating the nature of their research query prior to making a visit.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. Researchers may make single copies of any portion of the collection, but publication from the collection will be allowed only with the express written permission of the Library's director. It is not necessary to obtain written permission to quote from a collection. When the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research gives permission for publication, it is as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Los Angeles Committee for Protection of Foreign Born Records, Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles, California.

    Organizational History

    The American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born is an unaffiliated, non-partisan organization that began in 1933 with the aim of defending the rights and liberties of the foreign born. It promoted better relations and understanding between native and foreign born by means of education and sought cooperation with other organizations. The American Committee encouraged naturalization of non-citizens, and it vigorously fought against discrimination against foreign born citizens because of their nationality, political, economic or religious belief. The American Committee played a pivotal role in preserving the fundamental concepts of equality regardless of race, color, nationality, and creed. In response to the growing anti-immigrant sentiments during the 1950s, regional committees were established in areas with high immigrant population, such as, Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
    The Los Angeles Committee for Protection of Foreign Born (LACPFB) began in September 1950 with the same fundamental vision and goal of preserving the rights of the foreign born, focusing on those living in the greater Los Angeles area. In its inception, the Committee had no formal membership and was mostly composed of deportees and relatives of deportees. Rose Chernin, the founder and executive director of the Committee, was herself a foreign born under the threat of deportation to Russia on the charge of alleged membership in the Young Communist League, thereby violating the Smith Act. She was found guilty in 1952 and faced denaturalization proceedings. However, the Supreme Court reversed her conviction and the denaturalization order in 1957, largely due to the unrelenting campaign efforts of the Committee.
    Despite the attempts to deport its leader, thereby weakening LACPFB, the Committee grew to be an active and effective organization defending the rights of the foreign born. LACPFB set up subcommittees, such as the Bail Fund Committee, Trade Union Committee, Denaturalization Committee, and Committee for Protection of Citizenship to delegate its many tasks and responsibilities. It also sought cooperation of organizations interested in similar issues and worked closely with the national office, American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born (ACPFB), headed by Abner Green in New York.
    The Committee's first high-profile case known as the "Terminal Island Four" case (1951) became the focal point of the Committee's activity and set a precedent for the Committee's future involvements and activities. The case involved Harry Carlisle, David Hyun, Frank Carlson, and Miriam Stevenson, who were the first victims of the McCarran Law. The four were seized from their homes and work without warrant and held in the Terminal Island Detention Camp for six weeks without bail. In response, LACPFB set up special committees to raise financial support, picket in front of courts and Immigration Service headquarters, organize demonstrations and protests, and circulate literature to raise awareness and participation in the community. The Committee's political and legal activism was also heard in Washington with several of the Committee's cases going before the Supreme Court. Well-known civil rights attorneys like Joseph Forer, Ben Margolis, Seymour Mandel, and John Porter played an instrumental role in the Committee's defense activities.
    The Committee's main activity centered around the repeal of the Walter-McCarran Law (1952), which was a harsher version of the anti-immigrant, anti-Communist policy outlined in the McCarran (Internal Security) Act of 1950. Although the law was anti-Communist in design and language, it was also used as an anti-union weapon, targeting union leaders like Harry Bridges and Stanley Nowak. The aim was to weaken and disband labor unions, which were rapidly mobilizing and growing nationwide. Largely affected were the many legal and illegal Mexicans in Los Angeles, many of whom were being deported without due process. Other issues that the Committee took up included: statutes of limitation for deportation, unreasonable bail amount, illegal arrests and warrants, and immigration quota system.
    After a productive decade of fighting for the cause of the foreign born during the height of McCarthyism, the Committee's role had to be reevaluated and goals redefined. The 1960s was a decade of the civil rights movement. The focus was shifting to the African-American's fight for full citizenship rights in midst of the police brutality, church bombings, and assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a proponent of the civil rights movement. There was also a great student uproar against the Vietnam War and nuclear arms proliferation. In response to the changing social and political climate, the Committee's role also changed to meet the needs of all minority groups including the foreign born and the African-Americans. The Committee officially changed its name to Los Angeles Committee for Defense of the Bill of Rights and Protection of Foreign Born in 1967, and embarked on a new phase of activism.

    Scope and Content

    The Los Angeles Committee for Protection of Foreign Born (LACPFB) records consist of correspondence, minutes, press releases, journals, newsletters, transcripts, photos, newspaper clippings, and various other items representing the activities of the Committee. These materials were open records, which were commonly distributed to committee members and the public to raise awareness and support for the issues that were of interest to LACPFB. More private, not-for-distribution records in the collection include case files of individuals who came to the Committee seeking legal assistance.
    Of special interest are series two, three, and four, which are the case files of individuals involved in deportation and denaturalization proceedings. The case files are organized according to LACPFB cases and cases handled by the national committee and other organizations. The LACPFB case records generally include interview notes, status reports of cases, and court briefs and proceedings. There are extensive and detailed records kept for Harry Carlisle (series II, subseries A) and David Hyun (series III), two of the four defendants in the Terminal Island Four case. Both of their decade-long trials were handled by the Committee, which was staunchly devoted to keeping the two from being deported. Records of other non-LACPFB cases reflect the cooperative relations of the Committee with various other local and national organizations, such as, the Needles Trade Union, National Farmers Union, and the National Council of Churches.
    The entire collection spans from 1947 to 1973. However, bulk of the records date from 1950-1960 during the height of McCarthyism. The passing of the infamous Walter-McCarran Law in 1952 fueled the Committee's activism to repeal the law and overturn the deportation orders mandated by the law. There is also a limited number of pre-1950 records when the Committee was unofficially operating on a case-by-case basis. Records after 1960 are greater in quantity but tend to be sporadic and choppy. There are less detailed records kept after about 1963 when the Committee was shifting its focus to the civil rights movement. The complete collection of the annual conference journals from 1954-1973 serves as a good overview and report of the Committee's activities throughout its history.

    Arrangement

    The collection is divided into seven series: 1.Office files, 2.Harry Carlisle and the Terminal Island Four, 3.Case Files, 4.Other organization case files, 5.Lawyers and Legal panel, 6.American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born, and 7.United States Government.

    Arrangement

    Removed or Separated Material

    Related Material at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

    Title: Harry Renton Bridges Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1938-1955
    Physical Description: 45 cubic feet
    Title: Civil Rights Congress, Los Angeles,
    Date (inclusive): Late 1940s -1950s
    Physical Description: 7 2/3 linear feet
    Title: Citizens Committee to Preserve American Freedoms Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1947-1971
    Physical Description: 1 2/3 linear feet
    Title: Ben Margolis and John McTernan Case File Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1940s-1970s
    Physical Description: 50 cubic feet
    Title: Robert W. Kenny Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1823-1975
    Physical Description: 15 cubic feet

    Bibliography

    Smith, Louise Pettibone Torch of Liberty: Twenty-Five Years in the Life of the Foreign Born in the U.S.A. New York: Dwight-King Publishers Inc., 1959