No. 679.
Mr. Russell to Mr. Fish.

No. 66.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Department’s No. 38, referring to my No. 41 as to the claim of Venezuela, that all persons taking any advantage of the Venezuelan laws as to immigration, become at once citizens of this country, and lose all former rights of citizenship. My meaning would have been clearer if I had not used the words “immigrants” and inmigrados as equivalents. When we speak of an immigrant in the United States we mean one who has come to make our country his home. In Venezuela “inmigrodo” means one who on coming hither avails himself of any of the benefits of the laws relating to immigration, whether he intends to stay for a longer or shorter time.

By my Nos. 64 and 65, it will be seen that the President refers to this subject in his recent message. I repeat this extract here for ready reference. “Some legations have claimed that immigrants preserve their nationality, but I have maintained inflexibly the text (or doctrine) of the law of May 18, 1855, and the decree of July 2d, of the same year, which provide that all are Venezuelans who have or shall come to the country in the character of immigrants, if they have received the benefits offered after their arrival in Venezuela.” It is possible that, by the words which I have underscored, the President intends to qualify the broad claim laid down in the letter of the minister to Mr. L’Hote quoted in my No. 41. That claim was that all who came (to Venezuela) taking advantage of the immigration laws, were at once citizens. But if the President means that the benefit must be received after arrival in order to result in denationalization, the qualification is one of form rather than substance. The forlorn stranger who lands at La Guaira, destitute and ignorant of the language, and who accepts the shelter of the emigration-house rather than to sleep in the street, or who eats the rations there provided, to escape starvation, ought not to be held to have made deliberate choice of Venezuelan citizenship and renunciation of his former nationality. Yet this is the precise state of facts in which this doctrine is applied.

The law of Venezuela contains so such doctrine. It only gives the privilege to “inmigrados” to receive nationalization papers, if they wish, with the further privilege of exemption for ten years from military service. This construction is a mere gloss devised by the officials charged with executing the law.

In accordance with the instructions of the Department, I have inquired whether any persons here have been furnished with certificates of naturalization. I cannot find that this is the case as to any inmigrado from any country. Fortunately no practical question is likely to arise on this point. I have had and now have no occasion to discuss it with this government. All my unofficial applications in behalf of this class of persons have been promptly and kindly attended to; and now, happily for themselves, almost every one that came from the United States has returned.

If occasion arises I shall not fail to protest against the application of this doctrine to United States citizens.

I am, &c.,