The Italian Ambassador to the Secretary of State.


Mr. Secretary of State: By note of July 7, No. 289, your Department, in reply to two questions submitted in a promemoria appended to my note of June 21, informed me that it was the invariable rule of the Department of Commerce and Labor to decline to render decisions touching the interpretation of the immigration laws unless such questions be practically raised in cases actually occurring. It added that Mr. Metcalf was therefore sorry that replies could not be consistently made to “hypothetical questions.”

I fear from that answer that the Department of Commerce and Labor may have considered the questions as bearing on some specific isolated case; but they had, in the mind of the propounder, a much wider scope. In fact, they bear relation to the general question of diverting Italian immigration from the North, where it is considered “undesirable,” to the South, where it is considered “desirable.”

The Italians coming to the North find large cities, where they find a large number of their fellow-countrymen already established and opportunities for work in various lines, public buildings, roads, railways, mining, as well as farming. On their going South hardly any other prospect would be opened to them than a country life.

To this they may take in the capacity of “laborers,” “servants,” or “owners.” Of these the capacity of “laborers” is the least expedient for themselves and for the country that extends its hospitality to them, because it binds them to the soil by no tie of love or interest. Hence the advisability of knowing in advance and before they sell their property in Italy whether on their coming with the intent of settling in the South they will be admitted or rejected.

The two cases under consideration are assuredly hypothetical, if you will, but every general rule contemplates cases that may be so styled, and the cases provided for in some of the “rules” of the “Immigration Regulations” are likewise “hypothetical” by the same reasoning.

On the strength of these explanations the Department of Commerce and Labor will perhaps admit that the questions put in the memorandum [Page 570] submitted at the proper time deserve some reconsideration in view of the great number of cases that may come under them and of the weighty consequences that their solution in either sense may involve.

Accept, etc.,