Dalip Singh Saund
Congressman From India

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The most long-drawn-out battle of my congressional career concerns a hospital. The battle started three years ago and the hospital in question is the Corona Naval Hospital, situated near the city of Corona in Riverside County, about fifty-five miles from the naval bases in the Long Beach area. This hospital which had been in operation for many years provided facilities for the armed services personnel stationed at bases all the way from San Bernardino in the south to far Oxnard in the north. It also served retired naval personnel on the sick list and provided medical facilities for the families of servicemen.

Even the 1957 "economy" budget in its final approved form provided funds for the continued operation of the Corona Naval Hospital. Then suddenly, after the budget had been approved, I received notice that the hospital was going to be closed as an economy measure on orders of the Secretary of the Navy. I at once went into action.

On the advice of old-timers on Capitol Hill the first step I took was to appeal to the members of the California delegation in Congress. The Honorable Gordon D. McDonough, chairman of the California delegation, at my request called a meeting of the entire membership of the California congressmen, both Republicans and Democrats, and we invited the Secretary of the Navy to be present. My colleagues from California shared my concern over this proposed action, but we got no relief or any promise of relief from the Secretary. The delegation then went into an executive session and decided to approach the President directly on the matter. We did, but all that got us was a two-month delay of the proposed closing. And in spite of all our protests, all our best efforts, the Secretary of the Navy did ultimately order the closing of the hospital.

Even so, I hoped that the next year, with the help of the Appropriations Committee, I could place in the appropriations bill a directive that Corona Naval Hospital be kept in operation. With that in view, I wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy asking the Secretary not to remove any of the equipment from the hospital until Congress convened in 1958. In spite of my letter the Secretary went ahead and issued orders to remove the equipment. The hospital was closed for good. Nonetheless, I have continued my fight to save the hospital's valuable facilities, a fight that has gone on for almost three years.

The Corona Naval Hospital is located in a picturesque setting on the shores of a lake and represents an investment on the part of the federal government of $17,000,000. At the time of the closing it was just about full to capacity. More than six hundred and fifty patients had to be moved, most of the inpatients being sent to a hospital ship in Long Beach Harbor.

The need for the Corona Naval Hospital was so apparent and so well recognized that editorials of protest appeared in newspapers throughout southern California. I received hundreds of letters from individuals protesting the Secretary's action. But to my sorrow I have learned that it would be very difficult to have the hospital reopened under the present leadership of the Department of Defense. But I have nevertheless been fighting ever since to keep the hospital buildings from being sold by the Department of the Navy. Before disposal action can be taken, the Navy must obtain approval of the Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate. I made an appeal to the House Armed Services Committee that a full investigation be made before the buildings were disposed of. It is my conviction that the hospital can be reopened if there is a change of administration and a few individuals who made a wrong decision and are stubbornly resisting any attempt to have the hospital reopened are gone. Its facilities are vital to the area. All civilian hospitals are overcrowded and the population of southern California is expanding at a phenomenal rate and I am therefore hoping for an impartial study by the Department of Defense under a new administration. I am convinced such a study will show that these invaluable and elaborate facilities should be used.

Another major project that has occupied me throughout my three years in Washington involves the properties of the Agua Caliente Indians of Palm Springs. Members of this tribe own large sections of land in and around the city of Palm Springs. While the city has grown at an accelerated rate and property values have skyrocketed, an entire section of tribal land in the heart of the city remains undeveloped and covered by miserable shacks.

A long story lies back of the disposition and division of the Agua Caliente tribal properties among the small number of members of the tribe. The total membership of the tribe today is one hundred, including minors. In 1927 the Secretary of the Interior invited each member of the tribe to choose a property up to forty-seven acres to be made up of two acres of city property, five acres for a house, and forty acres of desert ranch land. The choices were made on condition that the allotments be certified by the Secretary of the Interior before the Indians could become legal owners. The members of the tribe made their choices, but the Secretary of the Interior refused to grant certification. The members of the tribe went to court and, on court order, the Secretary of the Interior was ordered to make the allotments final. Later, it was discovered that the allotments made out to those Indians were of unequal value, and because prices were continually rising in the Palm Springs area, one Indian had property worth $74,500 while another's property was worth $629,000. Some of the members of the tribe again went to court and finally, in 1956, the Federal Court ordered that the balance of the property owned by the tribe be parceled out to the members of the tribe to equalize their holdings under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior.

In 1953 the Secretary appointed a commission to make a study of the problem while the case was still being heard in Federal Court. On the basis of the commission's recommendation, after the court order of 1956, the Secretary proposed to Congress new legislation to facilitate the work of equalizing the Agua Caliente tribal lands in Palm Springs. The bill was duly forwarded to the chairman of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, the Honorable Clair Engle of California. Chairman Engle, a good friend of mine, in turn sent the bill to me in order that I might introduce it and thus be credited with having a major piece of legislation passed in Congress.

I had heard about the controversy of the Agua Caliente tribal lands in Palm Springs during my campaign, and so I studied this bill very carefully. It turned out to be a fantastic piece of legislation. Its most shocking provision involved the creation of a new commission to take care of the tribal properties of the Agua Caliente tribe. This commission would consist of four members appointed by the Secretary of the Interior and three members of the tribal council. Not only that, the bill authorized the Secretary of the Interior to turn the title of the Agua Caliente lands over to the commission and grant it authority to sell, lease, or dispose of this property in any way its members thought to be in the best interests of the members of the tribe.

In other words, this was a proposal to turn not the management, but the title of the Indians' property over to a commission in which the majority of the membership would be appointed by the Secretary of the Interior. Now, according to the Department of the Interior's estimate, the property involved has a value of $12,000,000!

There were other provisions in the bill that would have violated the normal regulation which stipulated that Indian lands be free from local taxation: such as one that permitted the city of Palm Springs to tax the land immediately. Furthermore, the bill did not in any way limit the amount of money the commission could spend, but left that to the discretion of the commissioners.

The bill seemed to me completely obnoxious. If it passed, the poor Indians would be left quite helpless. I knew from my reading in American history how shabbily some American Indians had been treated, but here was an example right before my eyes, in my own district, to be carried out by special legislation of Congress. I could see what would happen to the Indians. Under existing laws if the Secretary of the Interior disposed of any of the property for an unfair price, even if the money was properly distributed, the Indians at least had recourse to the courts. But if Congress passed a special bill to authorize the Secretary to turn the title over to a commission, the Indians would have absolutely no recourse through courts of law. I immediately told Chairman Engle that I had serious reservations about the bill, that indeed, in my opinion, it would be extremely unfair to the members of the Agua Caliente tribe.

In the meantime, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was beginning to put pressure on me and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs. This was in July, 1957. The Bureau insisted that the bill was urgent and should be passed before the closing of the first session of the 85th Congress which was expected to adjourn in a few weeks. This left little opportunity to hold committee hearings. The Bureau of Indian Affairs representatives called on me several times to say that time was of the essence and that the Bureau needed the legislation in order to carry out the court order. To my question as to what would happen were the bill not passed, the reply was that in that case the court would step in and more litigation will be involved, all of which would not be in the best interests of the Indians themselves.

I was most polite, but I continued to nurse my doubts about the whole thing. I knew that the Indian property had been there a long time, so why should there be such a hurry to get a bill passed during the closing two weeks of this congressional session? To me, the threat of the court getting into the picture to equalize the property of the Indians was no threat at all. I had and still have complete faith in our courts and I knew that in such an eventuality there would be nothing but justice done. Thus, the net effect of all this pressure was to make me even more dubious about the bill. I had it analyzed more carefully by experts and finally I was thoroughly convinced that it was a most objectionable piece of legislation in so far as the interests of the Indians were concerned. At my request Chairman Engle agreed not to introduce the bill and to postpone any action until the next session of Congress. In the meantime, he was agreeable to my request that, before any legislation was passed, full-scale hearings be held in the city of Palm Springs. Later, I saw that grand friend of the Indians in Congress, in my opinion the greatest friend of the Indian people in the United States, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, the Honorable James A. Haley of Florida. I explained the situation to him and he, too, declined to introduce a bill in that session of Congress and agreed to hold open hearings in Palm Springs, where the Indians and the other interested citizens would have a chance to appear before the committee and go on record.

The hearings were held in the fall of 1957. All the committee members agreed that it would not be fair to have that kind of legislation introduced or passed in Congress against the opposition of the tribal council. During those hearings I asked the members of the tribal council individually, as they appeared before the committee, if they understood the meaning of that particular provision which was to turn over the title of their tribal properties to a commission the majority of which were to be appointed by the Secretary of the Interior. The answer in every case was no. As a result of the Palm Springs hearings the committee declined to consider the Department's bill any further.

But the question of the Indians' lands remained unsettled. However, toward the close of the second session of the 85th Congress I prepared a bill in conjunction with the city of Palm Springs, the tribal council, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I introduced the bill in Congress but there was no time to hold hearings or have the bill passed. Study of the bill began early in the 86th Congress in the spring of 1959. The Bureau of Indian Affairs agreed to send us a favorable report on the bill, but wanted some amendments, one of which proposed to dispose of certain property belonging to the tribe which would leave the tribal council without any funds to operate and would in my judgment practically mean the liquidation of the tribal entity. The tribal council had an able attorney to assist them and with his help the proposed amendment was killed.

Finally, my bill was passed in September, 1959, by both houses of Congress and signed by the President of the United States. It has the approval of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the wholehearted approval of the entire membership of the tribe and the city of Palm Springs. The city has a lease on a section of land belonging to the tribe on which the Palm Springs airport is now located. Provision was made in the bill whereby the city would have a chance to buy that section of land at the appraised value.

As a companion to the equalization bill for the Agua Caliente tribal properties, I was successful in having a special bill passed at the same time which would give authority to the Secretary of the Interior to make leases on properties belonging to the Agua Caliente Indian tribe or its members for a period of up to ninety-nine years in order to make the land potentially more attractive to private real-estate developers. The federal law stipulates that banks cannot loan money on leases for less than fifty years. Under existing law, leases could be made on Indian lands for twenty-five years with an option to extend them another twenty-five years. This was not always satisfactory because, in most cases, a year or two would elapse before the deal was finally completed between the prospective lessee and the loaning agency. Both insurance companies and the banks were in favor of this bill, and quite clearly it was in the Indians' best interest. I therefore worked for its passage and after a good deal of difficulty the bill was passed and signed into law.

Now, at last, the situation in regard to the Agua Caliente tribal lands seems finally resolved after thirty years of long-drawn-out expensive litigation in federal courts. If the Secretary of the Interior will properly carry out the provisions of the legislation, there will be an opportunity for Palm Springs to expand and for the Indians to realize the full value of their properties. Heretofore they were land poor, supposedly each tribal member owning property valued at $100,000 or more, but forced to live on marginal and sometimes submarginal incomes. Now they could come into their own.

This, of course, has been a source of great satisfaction to me. This sort of opportunity for important and far-reaching public service comes to a congressman only rarely. When the chance appears he must be quick to seize it. But he can achieve his goal only with the help of his colleagues in Congress and the help of the communities involved. In this particular case I had to have, in addition to the help of key committee members, the complete support of the city of Palm Springs and the tribal council in order to get this bill passed.

There were other Indian tribes living in my district whose problems demanded my attention. These tribes lived in the farming area of Coachella Valley in Riverside County which is supplied with irrigation water from the Colorado River through the Coachella branch of the All-American Canal. Initially, these canals were built with the capacity to supply water to the entire Valley, including several thousand acres of land owned by the three tribes in question, the Torres-Martinez, the Cabazon, and the Augustine. Underground pipelines for irrigation and drainage had been installed to most of the land, but not to the Indian lands. The Indians themselves had neither the money nor the equipment to install proper irrigation pipes on their own, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs needed special authorization and appropriation from Congress to help in this development. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Coachella Valley County water district had carried on negotiations for many years, but to no effect.

In 1957 I introduced a bill designed to break this bottleneck. There were delays in starting the hearings on the bill because, in the meantime, one of the Indian tribes, the Torres-Martinez, objected to the legislation. Later the water district offered a modification to the bill excluding the Tones-Martinez and providing for immediate installation of irrigation and drainage pipes on the lands of the Augustine and Cabazon tribes, which were very anxious to have their lands developed.

The matter was not resolved until the summer of 1958, just prior to adjournment of Congress, when finally, at my request, the chairman of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee agreed to hold hearings. A week before the closing of the session, at a special meeting of the full Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, called by the acting chairman, the Honorable Wayne N. Aspinall of Colorado, the bill was sent to the floor of the House.

The chairman of the committee, in giving approval, told me he was afraid approval had come too late to get it passed in the current session. I was more optimistic and asked him to let me see what I could do, being confident that with his help and the help of the members of the committee we would be able to get it through.

That late in the session the bill could be brought to the floor of the House by unanimous consent only with the approval of both the House majority and minority leaders. There was no difficulty there. The Honorable John McCormack, the majority leader, was obliging and so was the minority leader, the Honorable Joseph Martin. With their consent the bill was placed on the House calendar and passed by unanimous vote.

There were only five days left in the session of the Congress and the bill had still to be introduced in the Senate of the United States. But in my favor was the fact that the bill had the approval of the Department of the Interior and had passed both Interior Committee and House of Representatives by unanimous vote. Even so, it could pass through the Senate only with the help of the Senate leadership.

I had earlier become acquainted with the majority leader, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson. He had always been very kind and courteous to me and several times had told me that if I ever needed any help in the Senate to come to him and he would see what he could do.

I thus went straight to Senator Johnson and told him, "Senator, I'm in trouble."

He asked me what he could do for me, and I told him my story. After asking some questions about the bill he said it was very late in the session, but he would see what could be done.

With his help, approval was obtained from the Interior Committee of the Senate, and Senator Johnson put the bill on the consent calendar of the Senate. It was passed by the Senate in three days. The President signed it and it became law. Now the money has already been made available and work has begun. As a result, lands which were previously lying idle, and from which the Indian owners could realize nothing, soon may be developed.

Incidentally, provisions of the bill are such that the Indians will not have to pay any part of the cost of the installation of the pipelines on their ranches. This expense will be carried by the Coachella Valley County water district from part of the normal taxes which it collects from developed land.

A further provision of the bill stipulated that, whenever any individual members of the Torres-Martinez tribe wanted to come in, they could arrange it with the Coachella Valley irrigation district with the consent of the Secretary of the Interior. I understand that there has been a change of heart on the part of the members of the tribe since then, and I am hoping that they will take full advantage of this opportunity to have water piped to their land. When the development is completed, the Indian lands will be quite valuable. If the Indians do not choose to develop the land themselves, they will be able to lease it at good high prices to other farmers.

Here was another example of the value of cooperation by local leaders with their representatives in Washington. Credit for the passage of this major piece of legislation goes to the leaders of the Coachella Valley County water district, who worked closely with me all along the line, even to the extent of sending their chairman to Washington to testify.

Water is both a threat as well as an important resource in my district. The city of Palm Springs, for example, is constantly in danger of a potential flood from the waters pouring down the Tachevah Creek after a sudden cloudburst in the surrounding mountains. In the summer of 1956 the Army Corps of Engineers made a survey for the building of a dam on the creek at the foot of the hills, right on the edge of residential property. In December, even before I had taken office, the board of supervisors and the city council of Palm Springs urged swift congressional authorization and appropriation for the Tachevah Dam. At their request I made a personal call at the Los Angeles office of the Corps of Engineers and discovered that the report was a long way from being complete. In fact, when I was in that office (it was on a Saturday afternoon and most of the staff was out), the officer in charge found it difficult even to locate the file.

Then followed two long years of correspondence, telephone calls, and telegrams to and from the different agencies of the Corps of Engineers, during which I had the help of John Bryant, the able flood-control engineer of Riverside County. Finally, in the spring of 1959, the papers concluded their passage through various stages of approval in the Corps of Engineers at Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, thanks in great part to the support of the amiable chief of the Engineers, Major General Emerson C. Itschner, who had graciously come to my office to discuss the project early in my long struggle. The Secretary of the Army added his endorsement.

Then came an annoying veto from the Bureau of the Budget.

It is sometimes difficult for citizens and congressmen alike to understand why one agency of the government would veto a project arbitrarily, without a public hearing, after another agency has spent large sums of money in making surveys and carefully prepared recommendations. There are occasions in the life of a congressman when he feels quite frustrated. He will have worked long and hard on a project in his district which he knows from firsthand knowledge to be absolutely essential for the protection of life and property. He will have enlisted the help and support of the proper government agency. Then, because of the whim of an official in another department of the government, the entire thing is called off. That is exactly what happened to me.

I had the authorization bill before the Public Works Committee and had made arrangements with the chairman to hold hearings on it. The hearings were being delayed because no report had been received from the Bureau of the Budget. Just a few hours before the bill was to be considered by the Public Works Committee, they sent in their unfavorable report. Normally, an unfavorable report from the Bureau of the Budget makes it difficult to have a piece of legislation passed.

The chairman of the committee knows from experience that it is useless to go through the hard work of getting a bill through the different stages of Congress because, if the Bureau of the Budget is not favorable to it, it will very likely be vetoed by the President at the Bureau's recommendation.

I did not know that when I first went to Congress. I believed that when a project had been authorized and the money appropriated by Congress, that was all there was to it--the project would be undertaken and work started. But I soon found out that is not always the case. Congress can authorize a project and can appropriate the money, but it is only the President who can spend that money and he doesn't have to if he doesn't want to.

I have had a number of projects in my district initiated by different departments of the administration and I have then worked hard to get the proper authorization and appropriation bills through Congress. And then, after it was all over, the agency will decide not to go ahead with the project. This has happened to me several times. For instance, the Department of the Navy recommended the construction of Capehart housing units for the personnel of the El Centro Naval Air Station in Imperial County. Later, the Navy changed its plan and said it was going to drop the project. So it was with my Tachevah Dam bill. And although the Bureau of the Budget effectively killed the latter's chances for that session of Congress, I have not given up hope of eventually getting it passed.

In addition to these large projects, Congress passes hundreds of what are known as private bills. These are the pieces of legislation enacted for the relief of individuals. As an example, take the case of a man in this country on a temporary visa who cannot become a permanent resident because of some special provision of the law. Still he may be a most desirable citizen. Under those circumstances, his only relief lies with the congressman of the district in which he resides who can introduce a private bill in his behalf. These bills are considered by the Immigration and Naturalization Subcommittees of the Judiciary Committees of the House and the Senate. During my three years in Congress I have introduced twoscore of such bills; nearly half of them were finally enacted into law, and the individuals involved received the relief they needed.

There was one young man from my district, born in Italy who, when I heard of him, was working for the famed Mission Inn in Riverside. He had come to the United States on a visitor's visa and wanted to stay permanently. He came highly recommended by many leading citizens of the community, and I'm glad to say that the bill I introduced in his behalf was successfully enacted into law and he became a permanent resident of Riverside. Later, my wife and I had the pleasure to be present at his wedding to a charming, beautiful Riverside girl. There are many cases like that, and there are also special cases where relief is needed in the matter of a claim through private legislation.

Introducing and following up on private bills become quite a chore for every congressman, but they can provide moments of real happiness. I have gotten particular pleasure from my appointments to the military academies. Many of these cases demonstrate how individuals and whole communities respond to the need of worthy youngsters in their midst.

One year I appointed a young man from a small town in Riverside County to one of the academies. He had been recommended by his school principal as well as several organizations and individuals in the town. I found out that the people of the community had collected money to send this boy, the son of a poor widow, to a preparatory school to study for the competitive examinations. He was subsequently admitted to the academy and is doing fine--to the considerable pride of the people who helped him have a chance at a career of service to his country.

Another case is a wonderful example of the American sense of fair play and sportsmanship at work. This involved a young man, the son of a public official of one of the counties who was highly recommended to me, in most emphatic terms, by the man whom the boy's father had just recently defeated in a bitter political campaign.

It sometimes happens that after some of these boys have been nominated and have even started preparation for the competitive examinations, they have a change of heart or develop an interest in some other field of study. In those cases some of them decline to take the examination. No harm is done because the next person in line gets the nomination. Making these appointments is one of the great privileges of being a congressman, and I know from my own experience that all of my colleagues in Congress take these nominations very seriously. In fact, one of a congressman's most exacting jobs is choosing the proper candidates for the nominations from the large lists of very worthy boys who apply.

I recall two years ago making my nominations for the Air Force Academy. Each of the two senators and the thirty congressmen from California were allowed ten nominations, making a total of three hundred and twenty, and out of those three hundred and twenty, only twenty-three were to be chosen. When the appointments were announced, two of my appointees had made the grade. One of them was a young man from Norco in Riverside County and the other was from my own home town of Westmorland. I had known the boy from Westmorland all his life. His family were close personal friends of ours, and I knew of his fine record in school and it was therefore a great personal satisfaction to me to see his name among the successful candidates. Unfortunately, both of these boys were disqualified because of slight physical defects: the boy in Norco because of trouble with his eyes and the young man from Westmorland because of a hay-fever condition.

Since then I have made it a rule to advise all my applicants to take the physical examination before they make preparations for the very difficult and exacting competitive examinations they must take. I was glad to note a year later that the Defense Department had relaxed standards concerning hay fever and my young friend from Westmorland was nominated the next year. He became a cadet in the Air Force Academy.

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