The Secretary of State to the Panaman Minister (Alfaro)

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of May 24, 1923,56 in which you state that your Government has been requested by the Government of Chile to arrest two fugitives from the justice of that country who embarked for Panama on the steamer arriving at the port of Cristobal May 23. You state that your Government granted the extradition as an act of comity and asked the assistance of the Canal authorities in order to have the fugitives arrested, but that the authorities of the Canal declared that as there had been no breach of the law of Panama by the accused it was impossible for them to act on the request but that they would arrest the fugitives pending further negotiations.

You add that Balboa and Cristobal are the ports where the interchange of passengers and merchandise between the Republic of Panama and foreign countries takes place and that the Canal Zone is as a rule not the final destination of foreigners but that it is a presumption that passengers landing at the terminal ports of the Canal who do not belong to the classes of persons whose duties are in the Canal Zone are on their way to the Republic of Panama, and that on the strength of that presumption it has been the invariable practice of foreign governments to apply to the Government of Panama for the arrest of fugitives bound for Panama.

Finally you state that your Government thinks it would be desirable and practicable to arrive at an agreement under which the Zone authorities would consider as a person wanted by the police of Panama, and consequently would assist in arresting, any offender whose extradition has been requested by a foreign government and [Page 705] granted by the government of your country and you therefore ask that the present case be decided in that sense and the appropriate authorities so advised.

The Department is obliged to inform you that it appears that the executive branch of the Government of the United States is without authority to grant your request. The courts of the United States have held that if there is no specific authority of law derived from statutes or treaties to surrender a person to a foreign government in extradition proceedings, the exercise of such authority would be an act of usurped power. There is no authority of law under which the Government of the United States could deliver to the Government of Panama for surrender in extradition proceedings to a third government a fugitive from the justice of that government.

Accept [etc.]

Charles E. Hughes
  1. Not printed.