Table of Contents
The news of my election was publicized all over the world, and from all quarters came requests for interviews. It appeared to me that the most remote corner of the free world had an interest in the results of the congressional election of the 29th District of California. In addition to the attention I received from the regular news media, I got a long-distance call from the United States Information Agency asking if I would appear in a newsreel film to be sent for transmission overseas. I agreed to gladly, and the U.S.I.A. sent a team of reporters and photographers to my district and made extensive newsreel pictures and taped radio interviews which were then distributed all over the world, particularly in India, where of course my election was of particular interest.
I had to drop my plan to go to India before taking office in January. It seemed unwise, to go in view of the fact that Prime Minister Nehru of India had been invited by President Eisenhower to visit Washington in December. For that occasion Vice President Nixon invited Marian and me to a luncheon in honor of Mr. Nehru. Accordingly, we went to Washington where we met and talked to the Prime Minister. Interesting as this was, my mind was frankly taken up by the problems and challenges that faced me as I began life as a congressman. Again I was blessed, as I have been throughout my life, by generous and helpful friends and strangers.
Shortly after the election Chairman Paul Anderson of the Board of Supervisors of Riverside County came to me and said, "Judge, we know that as our congressman you've got a large district to take care of and you must have received a good deal of mail. You don't have anything like an office, a secretary, or a telephone allowance, but I want you to know that the facilities of our office are at your disposal for any official work you have to take care of."
This was a generous and timely gesture on the part of the Board of Supervisors because Riverside County, even after the election, was still strange territory to me. Their friendly offer of help marked the beginning of a fine and happy relationship between the board and myself, one that has continued to this day.
During my brief stay in Washington in December I visited the Capitol and the two House Office Buildings. It was a great thrill to see for the first time the seat of the legislative branch of our government of which I was now a part. I was introduced to several veteran congressmen, and their welcome to a new colleague was very warm. They freely answered my questions and were most helpful in their advice. I had previously met that affable and obliging doorkeeper of the House, "Fishbait" Miller, at the Democratic national convention at Chicago and he was good enough at this time to show me around Capitol Hill and give me a lot of useful information as to how a congressional office is set up.
It was a big change to be transported from the judgeship of a small town in Imperial County to the position of congressman in Washington, D.C. I had to start from scratch and learn about such things as the number of secretaries required, the allowances granted, and the over-all system of setting up office.
First I had to assemble a staff. I didn't, frankly, have any firm ideas about this, but suddenly I found myself wading through scores of applications from people who had written me for positions in my office. The applicants included former assistants to nationally known retiring senators, writers, newspapermen, and so forth. I knew I had to be very careful in selecting my secretaries and assistants and some of the men who had applied to be my assistant possessed qualifications that 1 did not think were necessarily needed by the assistant of a freshman congressman. In this difficult task I was helped a great deal by my California colleague, Congressman Chet Holifield, and his charming and obliging secretary, Mrs. Dorothy Morrison.
I learned that offices are allocated by lot to new members at the beginning of each Congress. Mrs. Morrison drew for me and was lucky enough to draw number one. I thus got an office with a very good location on the second floor of the New House Office Building, which had been occupied for twelve years by a senior member from the state of Mississippi, who had moved to a larger corner office.
I was also fortunate to be able to secure the services of Mrs. Elva Bell, a veteran of sixteen years' service on the staffs of congressmen. She took charge of organizing the office, ordering stationery, and in general getting things lined up and under way.
A congressman's allowance permits him to have eight secretaries since most congressmen maintain an office and staff in their home district as well as in Washington. However, because of the make-up of my district I faced an unusual problem in this regard. The two county seats of El Centro and Riverside are more than one hundred and sixty miles apart and no one place could serve properly for both counties. My solution was to take on two part-time secretaries, one in each county for my home district, while for my Washington office I hired a staff of five secretaries and an assistant.
During the campaign I had become acquainted with Mr. Robert Farrow, an able reporter and editor on the Riverside Press-Enterprise. In the course of covering the campaign he had written an excellent series of articles on my opponent and myself. I had watched him closely and knew him to be above all extremely honest, able, and well versed in the affairs of Riverside County and its communities. He seemed the ideal person to help me in my new job.
Finally the office was organized with Bob Farrow as administrative assistant and Mrs. Bell as my personal secretary in charge of the office staff. We secured the services of a very energetic, hard working, and versatile secretary, Miss Olga Sianis, a highly skilled typist and business machine operator, Mrs. Julia Passman, and rounded out the staff with two clerk-typists. Before long the office was in complete order and we were already beginning to take care of the nearly fifty pieces of mail a day that were coming in from my constituents in Riverside and Imperial counties.
At the beginning of my second term of office, in 1959, my staff was augmented by the presence of a close friend from Brawley, Mr. Ray Barnes. He is a former editor of the Post Press newspapers in El Centro and later was editor and co-publisher of the Brawley News.
(I have known Mr. Barnes' family intimately for many years and it is a great comfort to have as an assistant a man upon whose personal loyalty and friendship I can rely and whose knowledge of Imperial Valley affairs is extremely valuable to me in my work.)
Because of the tremendous publicity my campaign and election had received, I went to Washington under very favorable circumstances. It often takes a long time for a freshman to become known among his colleagues. But I found out that everybody on Capitol Hill--members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the staff members in different offices--had read and heard about me.
On the day the President delivered his State of the Union message to Congress, I could see from my aisle seat the members of the Supreme Court, the Senate, and the President's Cabinet who had come to the House of Representatives for the President's address. I was very flattered when several well-known senators stopped to say hello, and I was particularly impressed by the reception of Chief Justice Earl Warren. He saw me and immediately came over and shook my hand and greeted me warmly. I could see that Washington was going to be a highly agreeable place to live.
I was invited to be one of the eight speakers at the biannual reception which the Women's Press Club gives at the beginning of each new Congress. Among those invited were members of the Cabinet and members of the Senate and the House.
At the speakers' table I was delighted to find myself seated next to Senator Margaret Chase Smith whom I had long admired for her courageous stand against MeCarthyism. Here, too, for the first time, I had the opportunity to meet my two benefactors, Emanuel Celler and Clare Boothe Luce, who had introduced the bill in 1942 that made it possible for me to become a citizen of the United States.
I touched on some of my campaign experiences and expressed my pleasure at serving as a living example of American democracy in action. The warm reception from that distinguished audience was a big boost to me at the beginning of my career as a congressman in Washington.
I was also lucky to get some good advice from Honorable Harry R. Sheppard, the dean of the California delegation. He had warned me that because of the publicity my campaign and election had received I was a marked person. This would be a great help and advantage since I wouldn't have the ordinary new member's problem of getting known to my colleagues. But being in the spotlight I would have to be careful how I behaved.
I also recall the short talk Speaker Rayburn gave to all of the freshman congressmen. It was a great honor, he said, for any American to be elected a member of the House of Representatives and a still greater honor to be re-elected. He told us our fate lay in our own hands and that we would find that the older senior members would do everything they could to keep us here if we would let them. He went on to say that the only way to learn the rules of the House is to be present in the House whenever it is in session and considering legislation. I was also warned that it was wise for a new member not to be too impatient about making speeches in the House or giving out statements without careful thought, for the record is permanent.
I am most grateful for that advice because I know now how important are the first impressions a new member creates among his colleagues. For it is only through their help and assistance that a congressman can ever hope to get anything accomplished for his district.
A new congressman's first thought, of course, is to obtain an appointment on a good committee It's not always easy. Naturally, I had my ambitions. My district contains three of the largest irrigation districts in the United States and they pose constant problems concerning irrigation and reclamation. There are also several tribes of Indians in the two counties. I therefore wanted to be placed on the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, which has charge of all reclamation and irrigation projects as well as Indian affairs. In the matter of committee assignments, the Ways and Means Committee becomes the Committee on Committees, and on the Democratic side the person in charge of committee appointments for the six western states was Representative Cecil R. King from Los Angeles, who has been a devoted friend and mentor to me. I had had several conferences with him when I met him in Los Angeles after the election. He was very cordial and helpful. He told me that since there were already two Democrats from California on the Interior Committee there was no chance for me to get an appointment there, but he would try to .get me on some other good committee. However, there were very few vacancies in the 85th Congress because there had been no great change in membership as a result of the 1956 election, and thus not many good committee appointments were available. After a couple of weeks of waiting I resigned myself to being placed on a minor committee. But one afternoon, to my great surprise and delight, I was told that I had been appointed and confirmed as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I was invited to join the committee which was meeting that very afternoon to hear the testimony of Admiral Radford on the Eisenhower doctrine bill. I immediately went over and was very warmly received by the chairman and the members of the committee. The next few weeks were fascinating and instructive as I heard testimony on this important bill from Secretary of State Dulles, former Secretary Acheson, and other high officials of the Defense and the State departments.
There is a saying among old-timers that a freshman congressman should be seen and not heard. I therefore decided to make two major concessions. First, I would let Dwight D. Eisenhower be the President of the United States, and second, I would allow Sam Rayburn to continue as Speaker of the House. For myself, I would mind my own business and be content with being a freshman congressman from the 29th Congressional District of California. It was perhaps the wisest decision I ever made. I was going to attend to my job. This involved learning the procedure of the House, watching carefully the mail from my people, and looking after the problems of individuals and communities that had already been brought to my notice and were coming in fast in every mail.
A congressman's official title is representative, and this title clearly defines his duties. A representative in Congress represents the people of his district in their individual or collective dealings with the federal government. As the people have become more and more involved in the activities in Washington, the work of a representative in Congress has become more and more important to the citizens of his district. Individuals have many problems with the federal government, problems about which they have to seek the help of their representative, for he is in a unique position in Washington to act as an advocate in their behalf.
During the course of a single session a congressman will get letters from a score or more veterans who may not be receiving their compensation checks or getting the proper recognition of their rights under the different veterans' laws. Pensioners sometimes have problems regarding their benefits. A widow is forced to try to run a business she doesn't understand because her son in the Army has been needlessly posted overseas. A taxpayer feels he got a bad decision from the Internal Revenue Service. A businessman wants a loan from the Small Business Administration. In cases like these, one's congressman can almost always help resolve the difficulty.
On my first trip back to the district, I made it known to my people that I was there to serve them, that I wanted them to put me to work on any problems that they had as individuals or citizens of communities. I was surprised to meet people to be bothered. I was quick to point out that although I was indeed busy I was never too busy to do the chores for my constituents. That, after all, is what I'm paid for. I told them they needn't feel sorry for me, that the people of the United States provided me with an adequate staff, never quite large enough to handle all my work as quickly as I'd like, true, but sufficient for me to give any problem they wrote me about prompt personal attention, and if I could do anything I would.
A congressman is in a special position to help his constituents in matters of this sort because the letters, phone calls, and requests of senators and congressmen are traditionally given precedence in every department of the federal government. Also, when a member of Congress needs to see a director or a high official of a department in regard to a problem which he may have concerning his district or a constituent, he does not have to leave Capitol Hill to go to the individual agency; each of the important agencies has a liaison officer who can and will come to the congressman's office to discuss the problem with him. It is often not possible for a congressman to leave the Capitol area while Congress is in session, because an important roll-call vote may be called for at any time and it is absolutely essential that he be present.
Some of the greatest satisfactions I have experienced as a representative come from having been able to be of practical assistance to hundreds of residents of Riverside and Imperial counties in problems affecting their personal lives and welfare. Every congressman, I'm sure, will agree. In cases that are within the jurisdiction of state, county, or local governments it is neither appropriate nor effective for me to intervene officially, and neither I nor any other congressman could offer much assistance. Sometimes, too, we are limited in what we can do by existing federal laws or government regulations. But in many, many cases I have been able to intercede for my constituents--with gratifying results. Here are a few examples, taken at random:
A number of veterans going to college on the GI bill wrote me that their payments were delayed. They could not pay their bills, and in at least one case there was serious hardship. I contacted the Veterans' Administration. As a result, the bottleneck was removed and the payment checks began to flow. One veteran received a retroactive check for $400.
Others who are sometimes the victims of bureaucratic red tape are those senior citizens dependent on social-security benefits for their support and livelihood. Over a period of many months I interceded for a man whose benefits were cut off and held up for more than a year while the Social Security Administration and the Railroad Retirement Board tried to resolve his case. The result was a matter of real joy: he received retroactive checks totaling more than two thousand dollars and approval for a monthly check of $78.00.
Another social-security annuitant received a retroactive check for $1,227 and an increase in monthly benefits of $7.00 a month. For another man I was able to obtain reconsideration of his social-security claim, and he was awarded disability benefits of $116 a month and a check for accrued benefits for six months.
Another gratifying case involved a Riverside County resident who wanted to bring his aged mother over from `the Old Country" to spend the remaining years of her life with her son and his family. He had reached an impasse in his dealings with authorities both in Washington and the distant capital of his native land. As a result of my inquiry, action was accelerated, and in due time a happy family reunion was held in California.
A serviceman stationed in the Pacific had a real emergency at home--his wife and child were hospitalized and his two other children were living with friends. His overseas tour over, the serviceman naturally wanted to be transferred to a United States base reasonably near his home and family. Yet he was due for transfer to a base a thousand miles from California. After I got in touch with the Air Force, his case was reviewed and his transfer adjusted.
There was a case where a Japanese-American had not received his indemnity check for damages when he was incarcerated during the war. On misguided advice, he had failed to accept a check of $10,000 which had been offered him in settlement by the Government, and not only that, he had failed to fill out the required forms within the prescribed date. The statute of limitations run out and he was left high and dry without this money, which he needed very badly to carry on his business.
He wrote me, and I took the matter up with the proper agency. There had to be a special ruling in his case, but he got his money.
Another case involved a war veteran. One Sunday morning he was fixing his car when the jack slipped, the car fell on him, and he sustained serious body and brain injuries. His treatment called for special twenty-four-hour-a-day nursing care and his insurance money was soon used up. He was a well-liked and popular figure in the community and the people of his town raised several thousand dollars for his medical expenses, but that money didn't last very long, either.
In the meantime, the community was trying very hard to get him into a veterans' hospital. The case was brought to my attention and I had some correspondence with a hospital in southern California, but to no avail. Next time I was in the district I went to the man's home town and found out for myself what a serious condition he was in. I called the superintendent of the veterans' hospital, and although he was courteous, he told me that there was absolutely no room in his hospital for this man.
Flying back to Washington the next day, I tried to think what I could do for this man. The first thing I did when I reached Capitol Hill was to go over to the office of the chairman of the House Veterans' Committee, Congressman Olin Teague of Texas, known as "Tiger" to his colleagues.
"Tiger," I said, "I'm in trouble."
"What sort of trouble, Judge?" he asked. "I'll do anything I can."
I told him the story, and he said: "You can wire your people that within three days this man will be placed in a veterans' hospital."
I need hardly point out that the weight and authority of the chairman of the Veterans' Committee are considerably greater than that of a freshman congressman. The net result was that my man was promptly admitted to a veterans' hospital.
The population in some areas of my district is increasing at a fabulous rate. For example, in the city of Riverside and the Palm Springs resort area the population has been growing at the rate of 10 per cent per annum during the time that I have been in Congress. This, of course, raises serious problems for the citizens because the communities outgrow their public facilities so fast. I was almost immediately flooded with complaints from a number of communities about the inadequacy of the postal service. Thanks to the help and cooperation of Mr. Verne Scoggins, the Post Office Department's regional operations director at San Francisco, I was successful in my first two years in office in getting nine new post-office buildings in Riverside and Imperial counties. Then there were some communities where the post-office building was not air-conditioned or lacked a drinking fountain, a serious and unnecessary inconvenience in a desert area. With Mr. Scoggin's cooperation I was able to secure these necessary comforts in several desert cities.
Before I took office work had been started and partly completed on flood levees on the Santa Ana River, an important flood-control project to protect the city of Riverside and the surrounding area. Nineteen fifty-seven was the economy year in Washington, D.C. The President and the Federal Bureau, of the Budget were determined to cut down federal expenditures and Congress was not only willing but eager to go along. I was told there was danger that funds necessary to complete these levees might not be voted. I sought the assistance of several important members on the House Appropriations Committee and I'm happy to say I was successful in having all the necessary money appropriated. That project has now been completed.
The President's budget that year did not include funds for the planning of a flood-control project in the Hemet-San Jacinto area of Riverside County, where flash floods from the mountains are a constant threat to valuable farm and residential property. The flood-control department of Riverside County gave me all the necessary facts and figures and it was then up to me as congressman to get the money added when Congress acted on the President's flood-control budget. This was accomplished with special assistance from the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Honorable Clarence Cannon of Missouri.
That wasn't the only farm problem I had to deal with in my first term. Instead of increasing the facilities of the agricultural experiment station in Brawley, California, on which the farmers of Imperial County depend in a big way, the economy budget of 1957 called for a cut of $15,000 from the regular appropriation. In addition, a new laboratory building was urgently needed at the well-known United States Salinity Laboratory in Riverside in order to accommodate its expanding research program. In that particular case I was assisted. by the chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Honorable Jamie L. Whitten of Mississippi. He very patiently listened to my story and personally undertook the responsibility of having that money appropriated.
The funds were included in a lump sum for a number of similar projects throughout the country, and later on we learned that all of the money had been spent on other projects and that there was nothing left for Riverside. There again was an instance where a congressman just has to go to work. I appealed to Mr. Whitten and the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona. They made special arrangements to put the money in the supplemental appropriation bill.
These stories all illustrate how vitally important it is for a new congressman to get to know the chairman of the different House committees and the chairman of the various subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee. I made a diligent effort to do so. The generous help of my other Democratic colleagues on the California delegation also made my work easier.
These necessary contacts were made as extracurricular chores in a very busy daily schedule. My day begins when I reach the House Office Building Cafeteria at eight-thirty in the morning where my wife and I have our breakfast. Then I go to my office, look over the mail, and dictate answers until ten-thirty, when I walk through the tunnel from the House Office Building to the Capitol to attend the morning meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The House normally convenes at noon. Sometimes during the debate I can return to my office to do some more correspondence, hold conferences with departmental representatives, or work on other problems. I then return to the floor for votes. The House usually adjourns by four or five o'clock, and I then go back to my office, read and sign the typed letters, and prepare to go home. Usually I just have time to get to some party to which congressmen are invited on the average of about three or four nights a week.
Work on important pieces of legislation in Congress is done in the committees. This includes legislation of national interest on agriculture, foreign aid, the various appropriations, public-works, bills regarding armed services, reclamation projects throughout the country, and so forth. The committees go over the bills very carefully. Normally, on a major piece of legislation, hearings will run for a period of several months as witnesses from the governmental agencies and organizations interested in the bill are heard. During this period the members of the committee listen to the testimony and cross-examine the witnesses. Then, after they have learned the facts about the bill, they meet in executive session for several days, going over every word and phrase in the proposed legislation with the help of the committee staff.
When the legislation is brought to the floor of the House, the individual members have an excellent opportunity to learn the pros and cons of a piece of legislation simply by listening to the opening statement of the chairman of the committee and the ranking member of the opposition. And during the general debate the subject matter is generally presented in a masterly fashion, and the chairman of the committee and the author of the bill are always ready to answer questions. In fact, if a person stays on the floor of the House during the debate on a bill, he has ample opportunity to learn in a general way about the major provisions of legislation.
I remember, for example, when the Honorable Wilbur D. Mills of Arkansas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, presented the bill which amended the Social Security Act in 1958. He stood in the well of the House and explained the major provisions of the bill for thirty minutes, answered questions for another thirty minutes, and by the time he was through, the members generally knew what it was all about. It was a superb job.
As a further aid to the members on legislation to be considered on the floor, a committee report which gives the gist of the particular bill is made available to every member. Thus it is possible for a member to inform himself about a piece of legislation which did not necessarily go through his own committee. Furthermore, the chairman and staff of the particular committee are always willing and ready to answer any possible questions.
The business of the Congress of the United States is very big business and there are thousands of bills introduced in every session of Congress. But only a few hundred of them pass into law. And the success of an individual congressman in getting any single bill passed is in direct proportion to the help he is able to muster from the senior members and particularly the different committee chairmen.
In my favor in that respect was the fact that when I went to Congress as a Democrat, the Democrats were in the majority and thus held all committee chairmanships. This was a big help. And normally, in my case, the chairmen of the committees knew the story of my election and knew also that I had won by a slim majority. In order for me to win re-election I would need help from the senior members so I could get some things accomplished for my district.
Soon after my arrival in Washington I discovered that one of the handicaps I suffered was that not very much was known in congressional circles about some of the particular problems of my district. I remember having in my office the man in charge of the fresh fruits and vegetables for the Department of Agriculture. He was a veteran of more than twenty years of service in the department and I was telling him of the difficulties the growers in the desert areas of my district were experiencing because of the competition of early vegetables and fruits grown in Mexico and imported to the United States.
"Mr. Congressman," he said, "I know your district, I've been there, and I always thought it was a citrus area. I never knew that you grew early tomatoes in Imperial County."
The same thing held true for irrigation and reclamation projects in my district. Members of the Interior Committee had little real knowledge of my area, but I was fortunate in that the chairman of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee was a fellow Californian, the Honorable Clair Engle, now United States senator from California. He was of great help to me and agreed during the first session of the 85th Congress to bring a subcommittee to my district in order that my people would have a chance to present their problems.
The subcommittee held a meeting in Palm Springs on a bill to equalize the value of allotments of land on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. The committee also went to the Imperial Valley and listened to testimony as to the bad effect of the salinity of the Colorado River water on crops. In Palo Verde Valley the committee became acquainted with the recreation plans and other problems in that part of my district on the eastern border of California.
Chairman Harold D. Cooley of the House Agriculture Committee knew that my area was predominately agricultural and that farmers there were the principal users of the Mexican nationals who are permitted to come to the United States to work on farms under Public Law 78. I had frequently spoken and written against the abuse of that law, for there were a number of individuals using its provisions to exploit the Mexican nationals. This was not only grossly unfair to the Mexicans but it gave a bad name to the rest of the farmers.
The recession of late 1957 and 1958 had the effect of increasing agitation against the use of foreign labor. In addition, there had been some serious abuses in other parts of the country that had incensed certain congressmen from nonagricultural areas. Since my district, particularly the Imperial County, depends almost completely on Mexican nationals for farm labor, I requested Mr. Cooley to bring his committee to my district and give the people a chance to present their problems in regard to Mexican national labor and other agricultural matters. The committee spent two days holding hearings in Riverside and El Centro.
Those are examples of how friendly committee chairmen can help a new congressman. Without the personal interest of the chairmen of these two committees it would not have been possible for me to present the problems of my district and get them a fair hearing.
Before I could have any special legislation of my constituents passed in Congress, or arrange for any other relief or assistance through legislative action, I had to make the chairman and members of the appropriate committee aware of the nature of the problem and convince them of merits of the case. There is no better way to do that than to have the members of the committee study the problem firsthand, on the spot, in the district, and listen to the testimony of the people--the farmers, small businessmen, Indians--all those directly and personally affected.
Normally, congressmen go to Washington with firmly fixed attitudes and opinions on important issues. For example, I believe strongly in strengthening and improving our educational system. The only way, in my opinion, that it can be accomplished is through federal aid to education. I also firmly believe that the farm community of the United States today cannot continue for very long in its present condition without bringing about a serious breakdown and even deterioration of our entire economy. If the farmers, who constitute 13 per cent of the population of the United States, receive only 6 per cent of the national income, they must become an ever-shrinking market for the products of our industry. And because one segment of the population is so closely intertwined with the other, if one falls the rest must eventually also fall. I went to Washington with definite convictions that the farmers do need a protection though it does not necessarily have to be in the form of subsidies. Conditions must be created wherein the farmer will be in a position to command prices for his products that will bring a fair profit.
Then I believe that our nation's economic strength depends on free enterprise. Its foundation is small businessmen--small businessmen owning their own businesses and operating them at a decent profit under fair competitive conditions.
I made these attitudes known to my people before I went to Washington.
When issues of national importance and legislation affecting the appropriation of millions of dollars come before Congress, the average member has to depend upon his own conscience and beliefs to vote on them properly. He also must always bear in mind the thinking of the people back in his own district and how a particular piece of legislation will affect them. I have been a member of Congress for almost four years and I have been called upon to vote on major and minor pieces of legislation hundreds of times. But contrary to the belief of the people throughout the country, no party leader has ever told me how to vote. I do not know of one instance when I was told by the leadership to vote any particular way even in matters where a few of our votes would count for the success or failure of a particularly important bill. I recall many a time asking the Democratic whip of the House, Honorable Carl Albert of Oklahoma, his opinion of how I should vote. Invariably his answer would be: "Judge, vote your district." What he meant was to vote the way the people in my district would want me to. He has told me several times: "What we are most interested in is getting you re-elected. Use your own judgment and follow your own convictions."
The fact that juveniles can cross the United States border into Mexico in Mexicali and Tia Juana has posed a difficult problem for parents, school authorities, and local governmental agencies dealing with juvenile problems in the adjoining communities of Imperial and San Diego counties. These problems are becoming more and more serious with the passage of time. As judge of Justice Court in Imperial County I learned to what extent youngsters crossing into Mexicali became victims of the evils of drink, marijuana and other narcotics, and even prostitution. Under existing laws, there is no authority under which the social-welfare agencies or the sheriff's department in Imperial County could stop these kids or for that matter any American citizens from going into Mexico.
To relieve this situation, a bill had been introduced in Congress by Honorable Bob Wilson, my colleague from San Diego in the 84th Congress. He introduced the same legislation again in the 85th Congress, and I introduced a similar bill. But we were frustrated by the fact that the committee didn't get around to holding hearings on either bill. I made a personal appeal to the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization, Honorable Francis Walter of Pennsylvania, for a hearing, and a hearing on my bill was held. But because of the intricacy and the long-range consequences of any change in the immigration law, we were advised that the best way to accomplish our purpose was under the passport regulations of the Department of State. I therefore introduced a bill to establish regulations requiring special permission for children under eighteen to cross the border into Mexico. The bill was referred to the Foreign Affairs Committee.
I considered this the most urgent problem before the people of Imperial County, and being a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I had high hopes that I would be able to get it approved by the committee and passed by Congress. It seemed simple. I could not think of anybody objecting to a regulation to stop kids under eighteen from going into a foreign country unescorted by adults, parents, or guardians. But I found out that the difficulties were great, because the Department of State was stubbornly opposed to any such regulation. That made it impossible to get the approval of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
I agreed to modify the bill to the extent that a child could cross the border if accompanied by an adult, had permission in letter form from his schoolteacher, a local judge or his guardian, or was traveling in connection with his school or business. I further agreed that the regulation would not apply throughout the country, but only in states where the state government requested the Secretary of State to put that particular regulation into effect, and excluding any area along the northern or southern borders of the United States except the particular areas where the difficulty existed. But in spite of all this I could not get to first base with the Department of State.
This is one of the biggest disappointments I have had since going to Washington, but a congressman just doesn't give up on a project in which he sincerely believes because of one or two setbacks. Later in the first session of the 86th Congress I introduced a bill to establish an informal relationship between the representatives of the United States Congress~ and the Congress of the republic of Mexico. My bill provides that twenty-four members of the United States Congress (twelve senators and twelve congressmen) will meet each year with an equal number of the representatives of the two houses of Congress in Mexico. It provides that the representatives of the two countries sit down together and informally talk over their problems. The bill was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and then passed by the House of Representatives during the first session of the 86th Congress in the summer of 1959. A counterpart bill was passed by the Congress of Mexico in December, 1959. In March, 1960, my bill was passed by the Senate and signed into law. I propose as a first step a talk with the members of the Mexican Congress to explain to them why it is necessary for the Mexican Government to cooperate with the people of the communities of Imperial and San Diego counties in curbing the visits of unescorted juveniles under eighteen into Mexico. It would not be difficult to convince the representatives of the Mexican people in Mexico City of the advantages of such a regulation. Most of the kids don't go into Mexico to spend money, because they don't have much of it. All they do is get into trouble and the end result is bad blood between the peoples of the two countries.
As author of the bill and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I expect to be a part of the American delegation to the interparliamentary conferences between the Congress of Mexico and the Congress of the United States.
Because of close contacts between the citizens of Mexico and the people of my district in Imperial County along the boundary, problems of mutual concern constantly arise where direct contact between the representative from the 29th Congressional District and leaders of the Mexican Government in Mexico City would be of great benefit in our mutual relationships.
During my first week's stay in Washington a colleague from California, the Honorable Clyde Doyle of Los Angeles, invited me to a breakfast meeting in the Capitol of a group called the Breakfast Prayer Group, made up of members of the House of Representatives.
I became a member immediately and as far as I can recollect have not missed a single meeting during my almost four years in Washington.
Between thirty and forty members from both parties meet every Thursday morning between eight and nine o'clock. One member is assigned as the leader for the morning. Each meeting begins with a prayer and then the leader introduces a subject based on a verse in the Scriptures or tells of an appropriate personal experience of his own.
Since the group is limited to members of the House alone, and no guests are invited, participants are able to discuss their own personal experiences and problems freely and without restraint. These talks are most inspiring and cover a multitude of subjects among them the responsibilities of the individual and the spiritual guidance and assistance members need in discharging their duties.
The remarks of the leaders are followed by an open discussion on the particular subject at hand. These meetings, held in an atmosphere of friendliness and mutual trust, have left a deep impression on my mind and allowed me to form associations with members which have been a source of great comfort and strength. I consider membership in this group one of the many rewards of being a member of the great legislative body of the United States.
I noticed early in my career in Congress that in the spring and summer months thousands of high-school students, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts from all over the United States come to Washington to visit the capital buildings and the nation's historic shrines. Because California is so far away from Washington, no large groups from my district came to the capital during my first year in office. I therefore made a point of writing a newsletter on the subject, and in addition, in my speeches at home began to urge student groups to adopt a visit to Washington as their project.
We have now had visits by three large contingents of youngsters from southern California. One was a troop of southern California counties' Boy Scouts, the other a group of high-school students from Palm Springs, and still another was a troop of Senior Girl Scouts from Indio. My wife is always of great help and assistance to me on these occasions. As my time is likely to be occupied with committee work and attending sessions of the House of Representatives, my wife takes the callers around and makes arrangements for their tours through the Capitol. She performs distinguished and valuable service as a non-salaried hostess to the people from the 29th Congressional District.
Through my office we can make arrangements for special tours of the White House, the Library of Congress, the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters, and certain other places of public interest.
Occasionally we have been able to arrange through the Doorkeeper of the House to have youngsters sit in the chairs of members and have their leaders sit in the Speaker's chair. The young visitors seem to enjoy that immensely.
From the letters we have received, it is quite evident that the experiences of visiting the nation's capital, meeting with some of the leaders of government, and seeing the House of Representatives and the Senate in session leave a profound impression on the minds of these young Americans.
VII. BATTLES ON CAPITOL HILL
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