File No. 894.4054/15
The Assistant Secretary of Labor to the Secretary of State
Washington , May 23, 1917 .
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 18th instant, inclosing copy of a note from the Japanese Ambassador, asking whether it would be possible for this Department to extend its telegraphic instruction heretofore given with regard to cases of arriving “picture brides” so as to permit all of the women of that status who may embark at ports of Japan for the United States during the month of May to be admitted with the understanding that the certified copy of the notification sent by the bridegroom in the United States to the registrar of marriages in Japan will be furnished at a later date.
As you know, the Department in its previous telegraphic instructions, issued on the basis of its conclusion, reached tentatively pending the possible procurement of additional information on the subject and more deliberate consideration, to exempt “picture brides” from the illiteracy test, voluntarily stipulated that with respect to such of the “picture brides” as might have already embarked and be en route to the United States at the time of the issuance of the instruction should be exempted from the illiteracy test and landed (if otherwise admissible) with the understanding in each instance that the certified copies required as proof of registration of marriage would be forthcoming at a later date. In giving this instruction the Department went further than is usual in matters of this kind. Ordinarily the instruction would have been not to deport but to hold the applicant in the immigration station until the papers might be sent for and obtained. The Department regrets that it cannot comply with the Ambassador’s present request. To do so would establish a precedent in matters of this kind which it could ill afford to set up and which if established would have to be followed (if the Department were to be consistent) in connection with similar questions arising with respect to immigration from Europe as well as from Asia. It has always been customary for the Department to assume that steamship lines, immediately upon becoming acquainted with a law and the rules and practices established thereunder, will decline to sell transportation to aliens not in possession of documents of the kind they will be required to present on arriving at a port of this country; and the Department knows of no reason why the transportation lines engaged in bringing immigrants from Japan should not be expected to act in this regard in the same way that the trans-Atlantic lines are expected to act, and if they do follow the indicated course of action the subject of the Ambassador’s request is automatically cared for, without this Department being [Page 853] required to do something affecting such companies which it has not heretofore done and would not care to do for the trans-Atlantic companies.