811.111 Quota/166

The Italian Ambassador (Ricci) to the Secretary of State


Mr. Secretary of State: Your Excellency will permit me to answer your note of the first of this month.

In that note Your Excellency, after saying that as I had not declared which treaty stipulations I consider to have been violated by the 3 percent bill, the Department is not in position to enter upon a discussion of the question, remarks:

That the Department, having considered the effects of the bill upon the existing treaties, finds that it does not conflict in any of its clauses with the existing treaties:

And that the restrictions imposed by the bill above referred to are of a general character, and therefore there is no discrimination against Italy or any other nation.

Your Excellency will permit me to remark that in my notes to which you reply I did not make any allusion to the restrictive effect of the bill; but only to the purpose, confirmed by the vote of the House of Representatives, of basing the quota of immigration to be assigned to the several nations on the census of 1910.

By placing the quota on the basis of the census of 1910, the law that is now being made for the future intentionally ignores the real facts—facts which for the sake of exactness for purposes of law can only be determined by the last census at the disposal of the nation, that of 1920—and ignoring the present facts arbitrarily adopts as a basis of fact a situation which prevailed twelve years ago and the result of which is to alter to the detriment of Italian [Page 583] immigration the proportion of immigrants that may be admitted into the United States coming from various foreign countries.

This injury is obvious when it is considered that Italian immigration into the United States was at its relatively highest development during the period from 1910 to 1914; consequently, the census of 1910 was bound to find, as it did find, fewer Italians in the United States than were found by the census of 1920.

I have thus given a clear explanation of the injury worked on Italian immigration by the bill.

With a view to explaining the existence of the evident discrimination which the bill would sanction to the injury of the Italians, I shall not confine myself to pointing to the advantage derived from the said law for immigrants from other nations, whose development in respect to immigration was checked during the ten years between 1900 to 1910, and whose quotas, based on the census of 1910, would proportionately be given an advantage and therefore run higher than that which, on the same basis, would be set as the Italian quota. If I were content with pointing to such an obvious result, I should prove only a de facto discrimination. But I am preparing to prove that there also exists in the law as proposed intentional discrimination and it is the existence of such a circumstance which is my incentive in renewing my protest.

If it be true—and it cannot be denied—that the best interpretation of a law as to its content, its effects, and its purposes, is that which is spontaneously exhibited during and in the midst of the debates in which the legislators are engaged in the act of passing it, my interpretation of the moral content and aims of the 3 percent law finds its most absolute confirmation in the outcome of the discussion that took place in the two houses of the Congress as appears in the official records of the Congress itself, when from the 19th to 26th of February 1921 the 3 percent law was under consideration.

For that purpose I beg Your Excellency to go over the following data:

United States Senate Hearings on Emergency Immigration Legislation (see in particular pages 534–535, 539–540, 544–545, paying especial attention to the following declaration of Senator Dillingham: “Without calling it that, it is, in fact a selective system; a selective system that grows out of the relative numbers of the nationalities now in this Country”).3

Report of Senator Dillingham to accompany H. R. 14461 (Calendar No. 756).4 See in particular page 3, from the last paragraph, and, in particular, on page 8: “The Committee are of the opinion that in the present emergency a restriction should be applied to the type [Page 584] last described (S. E. Immigration) and are convinced that such a restriction should be accomplished through some measure that will insure a definite effectiveness”; and, on page 9, see the tabular statement in which the immigrant ethnic groups are separated, and, at the bottom of the page, the paragraph, “On the other hand …”

See the Congressional Record of the 66th session of the Senate, February 19, 1921, and read the statement of Senator Dillingham on the true purposes of the law.

And those purposes, and consequently the intentional discrimination that flows therefrom, are: to favor, by making the computation of the quota on the census of 1910, certain nationalities and on the other hand to restrict the immigration of other nationalities, more particularly those in the group which the Congress defines as coming from the southeast of Europe, among which Italian immigration appears in the same tables laid before the Congress.

And thus have I proved, besides the evident wrong done to Italian immigration, the actual and intentional discrimination which exists in the content and the purpose of the 3 percent law as it has been passed in the House of Representatives and is now awaiting approval of the Senate after being favorably reported from the Committee on Immigration.

The same law violates both the spirit and the letter of the treaty of commerce of 18715 that binds the two nations because it is in conflict with the letter and spirit of the most-favored-nation clause contained in that treaty in Article 24. And the violation is evident when some nations are so openly granted in respect to immigration a favorable treatment which, on the other hand becomes, by operation of the same law, a treatment detrimental to Italian immigration.

Your Excellency will pardon me if my answer has been longer and has gone into further details than my two original notes on the same subject. I have been led thereto by the absolute denial by Your Excellency of my previous assertions; but above all by the desire which I know—as it cannot be otherwise—is shared by the Federal Government, that relations of all kinds between our countries and peoples shall be at every moment imbued with the spirit of justice and friendship which is inherent in the character of our two nations and undeniably is in keeping with our mutual interests.

And I shall conclude with a renewed assurance that I have not in mind any intention of discussing the advisability for the United States to develop a policy of restriction regarding immigration, both because it is a matter that is exclusively one of internal policy for the nation, and because, as I have acknowledged on another occasion, such a policy may find temporary justification in the economic conditions [Page 585] and the state of the labor market of the country; but Your Excellency cannot but accord to the representative of Italy the wish and the duty to secure for Italian citizens a treatment which, being equal to that accorded to other nationalities, will be altogether dignified for his country.

And I have given Your Excellency reliable evidence of those sentiments when I spontaneously offered my country’s intimate cooperation in bringing into effect, through a reciprocal agreement, rules intended to regulate in the most effective manner the immigration services, even on the basis of a strict occupational selection of Italian emigrants that the labor market here might require, on the basis of the immediate specific needs of its agriculture and industries.

And I indulge the hope that Your Excellency will receive and take into consideration the arguments and thoughts presented in this my note in the same spirit of unalterable cordiality and friendship in which they have been expressed.

I beg [etc.]

V. Rolandi Ricci
  1. File translation revised.
  2. 66th Cong., 3d sess., on H. R. 14461.
  3. S. Rept. 789, 66th Cong., 3d sess.
  4. Malloy, Treaties, 1776–1909, vol. i, p. 969.