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    California Border Crisis, LA Herald-Express Articles


    URGE PRISON CAMP HARD LABOR FOR "BOX CAR TOURISTS" [Herald-Express, December 11, 1935]

    INDIGENTS BARRED AT ARIZONA LINE [Herald-Express, February 4, 1936]

    RULE GUARD AT BORDER LEGAL [Los Angeles Herald-Express, February 6,1936]

    REPORT ALL BEGGARS IS PLEA [Los Angeles Herald-Express, February 6, 1936]

    SEEK TO BALK LOS ANGELES POLICE BORDER GUARD [Los Angeles Herald-Express, February 12, 1936]


    [Herald-Express, August 24, 1935]


    SAN FRANCISCO, August 24.—Indigent transients heading for California today were warned by H. A. Carleton, director of the Federal Transient Service, "to stay away from California."

    Carleton declared they would be sent back to their home States on arrival here due to closing of transient relief shelters and barring of Works Progress Administration work relief in the State to all transients registered after August 1.

    "California is carrying approximately 7 percent of the entire national relief load, one of the heaviest of any State in the Union," said Carleton. "A large part of this load was occasioned by thousands of penniless families from other States who have literally overrun California."

    Carleton estimated the transient influx at 1,000 a day.

    [Herald-Express, December 11, 1935]


    As a means of keeping indigent transients out of Los Angeles prison camps at which convicted vagrants would be put to hard labor, might solve much of the city's problem with this type of "tourists," the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce today declared in a communication to the city council.

    The chamber declared that the question of caring for indigent transients is becoming increasingly more difficult and that establishment of the hard labor camps might have the effect of slowing up "this invasion." The council referred the matter to the police commission for recommendation and report.

    [Herald-Express, February 4, 1936]


    While a tumultuous row was raging in city council over Police Chief James E. Davis, "expeditionary force" of policemen to halt the indigents over California's far-flung borders, the lid was successfully clamped on the Arizona-California line today.

    The spectacular row in the council broke out when Councilman P. P. Christensen, consistent critic of Davis, introduced a resolution demanding by whose authority the police chief was sending 136 of his "coppers" to the State line "trenches."

    At the same time Deputy Chief Homer Cross said the entry ports on the Arizona boundary had been blocked against transients in an effort to halt the "flood of criminals" and divert the stream of penniless transients.

    Within 3 more days, Cross estimated, the blockade would be similarly effective on the Oregon and Nevada lines, abutting California territory.

    The skirmish began right after Councilman Evan Lewis took the floor to argue in favor of Christensen's resolution.

    Meantime from Sacramento to Phoenix, Ariz., the reverberations resounded. At the California capital Deputy Attorney General Jess Hession declared he believed Davis' methods illegal. Governor Frank F. Merriam withheld comment but State Senator Thomas Scollan, who had brought about defeat of an indigent-barring law at the last session of the legislature, characterized the "expeditionary forces" as "damnable, absurd, and asinine."

    At Phoenix, Attorney General John L. Sullivan caustically declared if California tried to "dump" indigents back on his State, he would take swift action in reprisal.

    In Los Angeles, Councilman Earl C. Gay, also took the Boor and hotly opposed Lewis and Christensen. "As usual," Mr. Gay said, "Mr. Lewis is talking about something he knows nothing about." His face flushed and making no effort to hide his indignation, Councilman Lewis leaped to his feet. His first remarks were drowned by the gavel of Council President Robert L. Burns, who tried to leave the floor to Gay. Lewis remained on his feet and continued to shout as Burns loudly pounded for order. Half a dozen other councilmen tried to gain the floor. Gay then resumed his argument, insisting that the action of the police chief probably was dictated by the police commission.


    The Christensen resolution was amended and sent to the city attorney's office requesting that official's legal opinion on the following points:

    1. Legality of the action taken by the police commission in sending the "expeditionary force" to the border.

    2. Jurisdiction of the council over the matter.

    3. Has the city the legal right to expend city funds for salaries and expense accounts of police officers assigned to police duties outside the city boundaries.

    4. Are the pension rights of police officers assigned to such duties, valid in event any such officers are killed or injured on duty?

    5. Has the police commission legal authority to detail policemen to police duty on the various State border lines, as contemplated in their recent assignments?


    "Tactical orders" under which the city police were seeking to dam the tide of trouble at the border were outlined by S. L. Harman, assistant secretary of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. He said police and civic authorities were seeking to stop at the State line, persons riding trains without paying fares; give these persons the option of leaving the State or serving jail terms and finally, to discourage from entering California all auto parties without apparent sources of support.

    In the sieve of the widespread border patrol, the officers by fingerprinting methods, expected to catch or at least keep out of California a considerable number of wanted criminals, Harman said.

    [Los Angeles Herald-Express, February 6,1936]


    Flaying critics of Los Angeles' swift war on jobless, penniless winter nomads, Mayor Frank L. Shaw today revealed a legal opinion by City Attorney Ray L. Chesebro stating that the police reinforcements of the border patrol, was authorized by the city's charter.

    Meantime, against hesitant cooperation and even outspoken opposition from Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon, Police Chief James E. Davis' flying squadrons of 136 city police officers, succeeded in turning back hundreds of indigents and has caused at one border port, Blythe, a 50 percent drop in incoming hordes.


    Mayor Shaw declared Los Angeles would not be the dumping ground of charity-seekers, fleeing from the more rigorous winters in practically every other State in the Union. He declared that on January 31, when the police commission showed him the gravity of the winter indigent problem with its trail of crime and added relief burdens, he asked City Attorney Chesebro for the legal opinion and received authority for Davis to set up the police "foreign legion."

    "It is important to note," Mayor Shaw said, "that Los Angeles is facing a desperate situation if we permit every incoming freight train to bring us a new shipment of unemployed, penniless vagrants, to consume the relief so seriously needed by our needy people and to create a crime menace almost beyond conceivable control.

    "Officials of cities and States en route will not permit these transients to leave the trains, preferring for their own safety that the problem should be dumped in Los Angeles.

    "Our own recourse is to reinforce the sheriffs of the border counties with men loaned from the Los Angeles Police Department who can turn back the front ranks of these oncoming hordes promptly and in such numbers that the invasion can be halted at its sources as soon as the news reaches the east.

    "We are simply trying to apply an ounce of sensible prevention to save a pound of costly cure later on. Critics of the plan have either not taken pains to examine facts or for mysterious reasons of their own are content to see Los Angeles filled with a homeless indigent army of thousands, recruited from every State in the Union and threatening every security and hope of our own working people.

    "It is noteworthy that the critics have no constructive proposals of their own to offer with reference to this very real problem."


    The mayor's tart remarks were interpreted in city hall circles as a slap at the council faction which yesterday maneuvered a unanimous request from the council to City Attorney Chesebro for an opinion on specific points not covered by the opinion Chesebro gave the mayor.

    A possible major development today was the suggestion of Governor Frank F. Merriam at Sacramento for a meeting of western States Governors to seek means of halting the westward tide of jobless.

    "There are stations in Arizona," Governor Merriam said, "where chambers of commerce furnish gasoline to itinerants to help them along to California."

    Speaking on the much-questioned legality of Los Angeles' far-flung expeditionary force, the Governor said, "I guess Los Angeles can do it, its city boundaries go almost that far."

    Governor B. B. Moeur, of Arizona, declared, according to Phoenix dispatches, that Los Angeles was bluffing.


    "What the Los Angeles police are trying to do is unconstitutional," he said. "They are simply trying to scare travelers away by threats of fingerprinting. I am investigating."

    On the Oregon front, Governor Charles H. Martin said at Salem that the situation was alarming and that he was investigating through his State police force whether California's border could be closed to transients.

    At Carson City, Nevada's Governor, Richard Kirman, said he was "not excited" by the transients' ban, but was watching a possible high tide of border-halted indigents, hurled back onto Nevada relief agencies. As the "war" went into its second day, wires hummed with communiques from the local front:

    YUMA, ARIZ.: Sgt. D. A. McCoole turned back six transients.

    BLYTHE, CALIF.: Sgt. B. B. Eubanks' detail turned back 200 indigents and reported the flow diminished to less than half during second 24 hours, 8 fingerprinted, 6 found with guns.

    NEEDLES, CALIF.: Influx slowed down to a single alleged hobo. At nearby Cadiz, Sheriff Emmett Shay investigated set-up to report to San Bernardino County supervisors on advisability cooperating by deputizing Los Angeles "reinforcements."

    TRUCKEE, CALIF.: Subzero cold had halted vagrant influx but Sheriff Carl Tobiason of Nevada County deputized Los Angeles police who showed up in arctic boots and mackinaws.

    ALTURAS, CALIF.: Fourteen officers denied commissions by Sheriff John C. Sharp of Modoc County till he hears from attorney general whether it's legal.

    Crescent City: Del Norte County's sheriff, Austin Huffman, refused commissions pending inquiry.

    Plumas County: Sheriff L. A. Braden cooperating but not deputizing officers from Los Angeles.

    Siskiyou County: Sheriff W. G. Chandler deputized 14 officers from Los Angeles; 7 stationed at Hornbrook and 7 at Dorris on great Pacific highway travel artery.

    Sergeant D. Douglas, in charge of the "expeditionary force," reported to Davis that his men were halting tramps riding the "blind baggage" of railway trains and hitch-hiking into the State in autos. Of 16 men stopped at one port, Douglas reported 8 were found to have police records.

    Sworn in as local deputies in the counties in which they are stationed, the officers of the squadron were taking hoboes off freight ears, tenders, and blind baggage compartments and holding them on two charges, vagrancy and evading railroad fares. Railroads are cooperating with the police, Chief Davis said. He explained the only reason the railroads had not succeeded earlier in halting the westward influx of tramps was lack of special officers. Some freights carry 50 or 60 hoboes Davis said, and the men on the train crew are helpless to throw them off.

    The chief, meantime, defended his plan on the ground that in sending 136 of his men to the State's outposts he has taken a "humane and legal course and the only one that will work."

    "For years various plans have been advanced for discouraging these people from coming to California but nothing very efficient ever developed," the chief said. "Now with Government relief being gradually withdrawn, the situation is becoming alarming, if not desperate to the residents of this community."

    "If we wait until these thousands of indigents scatter over the 460 square miles of Incorporated Los Angeles, the police department will have little control over them, but if we stop them at the arteries now being guarded, the situation is considerably simplified. If this is done, we confidently expect a 20-percent decrease in the crime total in the next 12 months. Records show that 65 to 85 percent of migratory indigents come to southern California. Fingerprinting of vagrants and street beggars recently showed that approximately 60 percent of these have criminal records. If we remember that to obtain Government work one must have been a resident in the State at least a year, it can readily be seen that the hordes of indigents are not coming to California for work. They are coming to get on relief rolls, to beg and to steal."

    The chief said he expected hoboland's grapevine would promptly pass the word to Jungle camps.

    "Our work will be all the more effective and easier when the bums learn that California authorities are actively hostile to them," Chief Davis said.

    [Los Angeles Herald-Express, February 6, 1936]


    Along California's hundreds of miles of land frontier and on the home front in this city, Los Angeles police battled today to turn back hordes of jobless, penniless transients, who are said to have been pouring into this sunny clime from the wintery east at the rate of 6,000 to 7,000 a month.

    Developments in the police campaign included:

    1. Police Chief James E. Davis, after a conference with Sheriff E. W. Biscailuz, called on Los Angeles housewives to report immediately all beggars who come to the doors of the city's residential districts.

    2. Governor Frank F. Merriam was requested today by Governor Richard Kirman of Nevada to "intervene" and prevent Los Angeles police expeditions on the border throwing indigents hack into Nevada. Governor Merriam was expected to ask Kirmalt to join in asking the Federal Government to take a hand in halting the migrant work fleeing hordes.

    3. Ernest Besig, of San Francisco, director of the American Civil Liberties Union, a radical organization, demanded criminal and civil actions to halt Los Angeles police activities against the annual midwinter transient movement.

    4. Sheriff Biscailuz broadcast to all sheriff's substations orders to enforce the State antivagrancy laws in unincorporated territory, with due care on the part of deputies not to hinder any lawful personal rights.

    5. On three State "fronts" sharp declines in the number of "gentlemen of the road" were recorded by vigilant police patrols.

    6. Chief Davis was refused permission by A. C. Fleury, chief of the State bureau of plant quarantine, to use State quarantine stations on the highway entering California, as police outposts. Fleury said he could not grant the chief's request until assured the police expeditionary forces were legal.

    [Los Angeles Herald-Express, February 12, 1936]


    Arizona, which has been gently shooing indigents westward into California for years, rose in wrath yesterday and threatened to call out the State's National Guard troops because Los Angeles, with its police blockade, has started the tide of jobless roamers back toward the East. The threat was caused by the sidetracking in Tucson of a boxcar in which some 50 eastern transients had been started homeward by the police along the border.


    Police Chief C. A. Woolard at Tucson acted when his men arrested 22 of the homeless men. He asked Gov. B. B. Moeur to call out troops "to stop California from dumping hoboes in Arizona."

    Whether the Tempe physician, who rose to the office of Governor of the neighboring State, would take this militaristic step was a question. But calling out the guard is no new experience for Governor Moeur. The last time he did it was to stop the Government Reclamation Service from constructing the Parker Dam, a part of the Los Angeles aqueduct system. The troops responded nobly, rushing to the river bank and then creating an "Arizona navy" with a couple of scows to patrol the water front. Today the dam is rapidly proceeding toward completion with the Arizona warriors back in their homes and possibly waiting for the new call to arms.


    Police Chief James E. Davis considers California is not "dumping its bums" but merely moving transients back whence they came. Chief Davis pointed to the rapidly dwindling westward trickle of transients and called on all California to purge itself of hoboes.

    Chief Davis appealed to police chiefs in other California cities to join him in the drive. The response from some places was immediate. Officials at Santa Ana, for instance, said they had established a rock pile not only for hoboes but for drunk drivers and other offenders.

    [Los Angeles Herald-Express, February 19, 1936]


    A formal demand that Police Chief James E. Davis' "foreign legion" be withdrawn from California's borders was filed with the police commission today by the American Civil Liberties Union, which asked that the police squads be returned to the city. Clinton J. Taft, California director of the union, said his organization was prepared to seek a court injunction if necessary to stop the police patrol. At the same time written protests against the "bum blockade" program were filed with the police board by the Hollenbeck Borough Voluntary Board and the Hollywood Open Forum. While the protests were being received the police commission approved the allocation of an additional $1,000 to the border patrol of 166 policemen, effective today; another $1,000 for February 20, and a third $1,000 effective February 21.