The Case of Alice Hilda Sparksman

By: Dina Shenouda

Case File: 55750/521

Immigrant: Alice Hilda Sparksman

Alice Hilda Sparksman was a legal US immigrant who requested for deportation to be reunited with her husband. Alice immigrated from Great Britain to the United States through a quota visa, which was implemented by the Immigration Act of 1924, otherwise known as the Johnson-Reed Act. This Act gave a limited number of visas to desired immigrants from northern and western Europe. She entered the U.S. at a New York port, arriving on September 9, 1930 aboard the S.S Olympic.

On October 16, 1930, she married Albert Sparksman, a British subject who was illegally admitted into the United States. Alice’s husband was taken into custody and went through deportation proceedings, and so her deportation application requested she be transported the same day as her husband. Alice lived in fear of falling into distress due to her health and financial situation. Her wages were not enough to support her or to support her future child, and her weekly pay varied depending on the work demand. Without her husband’s income, Alice would not be able to feed herself or her baby.

Alice’s case was more difficult due to the lack of family presence in America. Specifically, she could not have a baby in a country without a spouse or without her family. With the income cut, Alice’s fall into distress would be unquestionable. In her deportation request, she pleaded to be transported on the same day as her husband and that the United States pay her transportation fees.

Her case was investigated by immigrant inspector E.M. Palmer at Ellis Island on April 30, 1931(?). The Assistant Chairman, Secretary, and Commissioner General’s Board of Review stated that, “it is recommended that authority is granted for the removal of the alien to England at Government expense.” The main purpose of this recommendation was to decrease the expenses paid for Alice. The inspector saw Alice’s request as an opportunity to decrease the number of public charges, since paying transportation expenses was a better option than paying to support Alice and her future child. As a response to her request, Harry E. Hull, the Commissioner General of Immigration, authorized Alice’s removal to England at the “expenses of regulating immigration.”

The approval of Alice Sparksman’s request was not the U.S. government’s way to reunite a family, but rather it was to deport people out of the country. Cases like Alice’s — that of a potential single mother — were seen as one of the factors that led to the crumbling economy. The government viewed public charges as leeches that took every opportunity to improve the country’s economy. Alice’s request for deportation was not a choice, but it was due to the involuntary circumstances and the government’s aim to decrease public charges.

Alice’s case is similar to the voluntary repatriation of Mexicans during the Great Depression, when many Mexicans could not support themselves and eventually became dependent on other agencies for survival. They feared the consequences of becoming a public charge, and they decided to voluntarily leave the country to end their suffering.

Document Analysis
Case file #55750/521

This summary page was written to explain and evaluate Alice’s request for deportation, and it was meant as a tool to judge and keep track of her case. It explains her entire case and what led her to ask for her deportation. This summary was written after the interview and investigation of Alice’s case. It shows the government’s willingness to deport Alice and pay all her expenses in order to avoid further complications and expenses based on her dependency status.

Alice Sparksman came to the US legally through her quota visa. Later on, she met her husband, a British subject who came to the U.S. illegally. However, Alice did not know of her husband’s illegal status until he was arrested. Alice was expecting her first child and was at a risk of being a public charge after her husband’s arrest. Being a public charge would have eventually led to her deportation. However, it was an easier and smarter choice to leave with her husband instead of later leaving on her own. She would have had to take care of her child and herself on a single income. Hence, deportation with her husband was the only practical choice she had. Her request for deportation was her effort to keep her family together.

Why Does it Matter? 

Cases such as Alice Sparksman’s matter because her circumstances essentially forced her to return to her country of origin due to the government’s aim to get rid of public charges. Instead of providing support for her situation, officials found it easier to send her back to Great Britain with her husband.

America’s current society continues to struggle with the same problem. There are ongoing stories of separated families due to deportation and illegal status. Current immigration policies fail to give opportunities for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship, forcing them to live their lives avoiding deportation. Although illegal aliens are portrayed as willingly coming to the U.S., in reality, many were forced by certain circumstances. Many illegal aliens are refugees of violence, drug trafficking, and other crimes, yet our current administration refuses to compromise with illegal aliens, or give them a chance at a better life.

Other Questions

1) Why is deportation so common in the United States?

2) How can we make an actual change in immigration policies?