The Italian Embassy to the Department of State


Congress is now taking into consideration two important bills on restrictive and selective immigration, one presented by Senator D. A. Reed and the other by representative Albert Johnson; more so a number of other bills and amendments have been presented and [Page 225] there is every indication that Congress will soon take some final decision with regard to the immigration policy of the United States.

The Italian Government has always manifested by words and by action, its sincere desire of cooperating in a friendly way with the Government of the United States in all matters concerning emigration; in venturing therefore to express its point of view on some of the contemplated provisions of law, the Italian Government is animated solely by the desire of avoiding any possible motives of discussion and any eventual difficulties in the practical application of the United States Immigration laws.

The principal provisions to be considered are:

1) On the 15th of December 1923 the Italian Ambassador has already fully expressed to the Secretary of State83 his government’s point of view with regard to the question of basing the quota law on the 1890 census; there is no need therefore to go further at present into this matter.

2) Some members of Congress have considered, implicitly or explicitly, the opportunity of granting immigration certificates independently from the fact whether passports are obligatory in the country to which the immigrants owe allegiance.

This would practically invalidate the sovereign right of the Italian Government to control the emigration of its citizens and interfere with the necessary national measure to safeguard public order and with the regulations relating to passports.

If American consular certificates should be issued before the prospective immigrant has obtained an indispensable Italian passport this would doubtlessly lead towards encouraging and facilitating the exit of certain individuals to the departure of whom the Italian authorities may oppose themselves for reasons of public order or on account of unfulfilled military service.

3) The issuance of numbered certificates or visa certificates may be an efficient means for maintaining the number of emigrants within the quota limits and of reducing the number of rejections of immigrants from the United States.

In accordance to the sovereign rights of every state to regulate the admittance of aliens within its territory, the United States government has doubtlessly the faculty to subordinate the admittance of an immigrant to certain requisites and formalities. But the exertion of such right must not come into contrast with the Italian Government’s exclusive right of jurisdiction over its own subjects in Italy.

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Therefore the American consuls in the fulfilment of their customary functions should not broaden these out with reference to the certificates into an extraordinary investigation that would become a jurisdictional act exceeding the recognized consular functions.

The proper selection of immigrants as desired by the United States can only be efficiently accomplished by a friendly cooperation between the United States consular officers and the Italian Authorities, due regard being taken toward the legitimate requirements and the unquestionable prerogative of one and the other country. The Italian Commissariat of Emigration has constantly given proof of its willingness in such direction.

4) The Johnson bill contemplates the admittance, extra quota, of children, wives and parents of American citizens, but the Reed bill only grants them a preference in obtaining the visa certificates. There seems to be every good reason to believe that the free admittance into the United States should be a privilege accruing to the family of every citizen through his constitutional right to cohabitate with his wife and children and to be unhampered in the enjoyment of family life.

5) The provision of laying the burden of proof on the alien in case of refusal of admittance or of deportation from the United States, contained in both the Reed and the Johnson bills, is in contradiction to the recognized procedure of law the world over; in the original Reed bill N. 2576 it was applicable to all individuals but in the amended bill the word “individual” has been substituted by the word “alien” thereby refusing to aliens an equitable safeguard granted to any citizen.

It should also be considered that in accordance to Section 2 (e) of the Reed bill the visa certificate is to be surrendered by the immigrant to the immigration officer at the port of entry so that he finds himself deprived of the most important document with which to prove that he has been lawfully admitted into the United States.

The Italian Government sincerely hopes that the preceding remarks may be taken into serious consideration by the United States Government with the aim of suggesting such forms in the drafting of the immigration law and regulations as will harmonize the rightful interests and the friendly feelings of their respective countries.84

  1. Pro memoria printed in H. Rept. 350, 68th Cong., 1st sess., p. 15.
  2. The Department appears to have made no reply.