Friday, January 15, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: January 15

January 15, 1918 – Confiscation by the state of all lands in excess of two acres held by aliens in Minn. is the ultimate purpose of a resolution adopted late today by the Minnesota Public Safety commissioner directing a state-wide investigation to list aliens in the state and their real estate holdings. Inquiry will be made through the office of State Auditor Preus, originator of the movement, and the commission instructs boards of county commissioners throughout the state to provide the necessary machinery.

When the county boards make reports to Preus, he will refer the cases to Attorney General Smith with requests that the necessary legal proceedings be started. Reports must be made before March 1, the resolution specifies. Action will be under Minn. laws prohibiting aliens, with specified exceptions, from acquiring more than 90,000 square feet, less than two acres of land. The principal exemption made is of actual settlers upon farms of not more than 160 acres, and those protected by international treaties, Preus said this evening.

Action of the Public Safety commission followed the announcement by Auditor Preus several weeks ago of his purpose to enforce the law on the question. The auditor already has prosecuted his investigations to some extent, but the order directed to boards of county commissioners will greatly aid and hasten developments.

“To estimate the number of Minn. aliens who will be affected by the mover is impossible,” said Preus, “but there must be hundreds of them. Action is aimed particularly at aliens of draft age who claim exemption and continue to enjoy liberties, privileges and opportunities of this country while Americans are volunteering and being drafted to defend these rights. Minn. laws on the subject are not as strict as those of many foreign nations.”

Not only individual holding of aliens, but those of corporations with alien stockholders will be listed. Scope of the movement is indicated in the resolution instructing boards of county commissioners to provide necessary machinery to conduct investigations in their respective counties:
 (a) To determine the real property that each alien holds.
 (b) To determine whether each alien actually lives on the real estate.
 (c) To determine the names of each corporation having alien stockholders holding real estate.
 (d) To give legal descriptions of all real estate referred to.

Steps already have been taken to prevent future sales of state lands to aliens. That realty owners affected have expected the move is indicated by numerous inquiries on the subject received by the auditor and other state officials.

The state law provides that no person, unless a citizen of the United States or one who has declared his intention to become a citizen and no corporation unless created by domestic laws, shall acquire any lands or interest in lands, exceeding 90,000 square feet, except as may be acquired by devise of inheritance, and such as may be held as security for indebtedness. This provision, however, does not apply to actual settlers upon farms of not more than 160 acres, or to citizens or subjects of a foreign country whose rights to hold lands are secured by treaty.

Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “State Will Confiscate Lands Owned by Aliens. Realty Holders Not Citizens Be Listed at Once. Action to Be Taken Under Clause Limiting Holdings to Two Acres. Settlers on Quarter Sections Exempted. Hundreds of Foreigners Will Be Affected by Commission’s Move.”; Jan. 16, 1918; p. 1.

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