No. 281.
Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. West.

Sir: The Attorney-General having recently given an opinion favorable to permitting the transit of Chinese laborers across the territory of the United States under such conditions as will prevent abuses of [Page 492] the privilege, I now have the honor to reply to your note of the 25th of September last, wherein you present for my consideration the question presented by the desire of a considerable number of Chinese laborers, natives of Hong-Kong, now residing in Demerara, to return to China by way of San Francisco.

In reaching the conclusion that the transit through the United States of Chinese proceeding to or from a third country is permissible under the Chinese immigration act of May (5, 1882, the Attorney-General is of The opinion that, taking the language of the treaty between the United States and China of 17th November, 1880, in connection with the act framed to carry out the provisions thereof, the statute has reference only to the Chinese who come here to stay as laborers, and that a Chinese laborer coming to this country merely to pass through it is not to be considered as within the prohibition of the law, he being neither an immigrant nor a laborer coming here as laborer. The Attorney-General adds:

I am of opinion that Chinese passing through this country to other countries are not required, before crossing our borders, to produce the specified, certificates of identification [i. e., those specified in sections 4 and 6 of the act of May 6, 1882], provided they competently prove in some other manner their status as mere transient passengers; of course the certificate would dispense with other proof. The character of such proof may very properly be regulated by the Secretary of the Treasury.

I have brought the matter in this shape to the attention of the Secretary of the Treasury, and requested that he will frame such regulations as may be necessary to permit the transit of Chinese laborers.

As soon as the action of my colleague shall be made known to me, I will communicate it to you.

I have, &c.,