Minister Merry to the Secretary of State.

No. 1119.]

Sir: I have the honor to advise that on the 15th instant I received the following telegram from Consul Demers at Limon:

Two prominent Syrian-American merchants carrying American passports, returning to their business in Bolivia via Colon, not permitted to land to await steamer of 21st for Colon. Unless prompt permission is obtained they will be deported to New Orleans, whence they came. Details follow. I stand responsible for their leaving for Colon by first steamer.

I promptly called upon the minister for foreign relations and stated the case, offering to instruct the consul to give his official written guaranty under seal for their departure as stated above. Having occasion to visit Limon on the 16th instant, I met the three parties. My offer to give the consul’s guaranty having been accepted, they were permitted to await at Limon the next Colon steamer. They took the route to Colon via Limon because they could not obtain tickets direct from New Orleans, the ship’s passenger accommodation being fully engaged.

I represented to Minister Astua the necessity for making some transit arrangement for Syrian-born American citizens with passports, in the mutual interests of our Governments, as passengers in transit expend money at Costa Rica ports, and we do not want our citizens deprived of the right of transit, no matter what their race or color.

On November 14 last a respectable Syrian-American merchant established at Limon was ordered to leave the country. He came to see me and showed his passport as an American citizen issued by Secretary [Page 1187] Hay. I called with him on Minister Astua, and claiming that his parentage being Greek he was not a Syrian and that it was not even necessary to allude to his American citizenship as proven by passport; he was permitted to remain. The people above alluded to are respectable merchants with some capital.

The Costa Rica Government being at present very active in the prohibition of entry to proscribed races, as stated in my No. 1115,a of December 5, there will doubtless occur other similar cases.

The minister of foreign relations has addressed me a note stating that the landing of Syrians in Costa Rica is positively prohibited under any circumstances, and that the exceptions have been made entirely as a courtesy to the United States. Other cases known to me have recently occurred at Limon, where British subjects of Syrian birth were sent back to Jamaica, whence they came.

With assurances of my highest consideration, etc.,

William Lawrence Merry.