The Acting Secretary of State to the Chinese Minister.
Washington , April 13, 1905 .
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note No. 59, of the 31st ultimo, in which you protest against the taking of a census of the Chinese residents of the United States by the bureau of immigration while negotiations are pending between the two governments for a new treaty in which this question is one of the matters under discussion.
On the 1st instant the Department sent the Secretary of Commerce and Labor a copy of your note for his consideration and an expression of his views in the matter. In his letter, in reply, dated the 6th instant Secretary Metcalf says:
A careful consideration has been given to the contents of the said note with the result that I am constrained to express the view that if the act complained of is within the authority of the officers charged with the enforcement of the Chinese-exclusion laws it would not be proper to suspend such action unless it can be shown to be useless upon the sole ground that the matters involved therein are now under consideration in connection with the negotiation of a new treaty between the Chinese Empire and the Government of the United States.
There seems to be some misapprehension as to the nature of this so-called census. When the collectors of internal revenue and the collectors of customs were superseded by officers of the bureau of immigration under authority of the act of February 14, 1903, entitled “An act to establish the Department of Commerce and Labor,” instructions were issued to them to compile a record of Chinese residents in their respective districts. The object of securing such a record was not less to identify and protect those Chinese persons who are entitled by the laws and treaty to remain within the United States than to detect and expel those not so entitled. It is probably unnecessary to enumerate the advantages of such an accessible record of Chinese lawfully resident here, as well in securing them from molestation, as in facilitating their admission after temporary departure from this country. On the other hand, I can not assume that the Chinese minister has any desire to shield those who are unlawfully in the United States from the consequences of such unlawful residence.
That it is the duty of the administrative officers to make inquiries as to Chinamen who are apparently in the United States in violation of law there can be no reasonable question. If the exclusion acts themselves do not in literal terms require such action on the part of said officers, yet the uses to which the appropriation for the enforcement of these laws can be applied, as described in the words “and for expenses of returning to China all Chinese persons found to be unlawfully in the United States, including the cost of imprisonment, etc.,” show plainly that the inspection officers are required to make some sort of an inquiry to ascertain the presence of such persons in this country.
The taking of the so-called census amounts to simply preparing a record of information secured as to lawful residents while making such inquiries as a necessary preliminary to carrying into effect the above-mentioned purpose of the law. As I have already pointed out in the foregoing, such records serve as a protection to Chinese of the exempt classes.
The specific occasion, I learn, of the protest to which this is a reply was the issuance recently of a letter by the commissioner-general of immigration to the officers in charge of the various districts, directing that the practice which has been in operation for eighteen [Page 168] months past should be so hastened as to furnish information for use by the former in the preparation of his next annual report. But that letter does not indicate any new departure from the established practice in such matters for the time indicated.