The Secretary of State to the American Delegation

Sirs: The International Conference on Emigration and Immigration to which you have been designated as representatives of this Government is the second Conference of this type to which the United States has sent delegates, the first having been held in Rome in 1924 upon the invitation of the Italian Government.62 The present Conference has been called by the Cuban Government in pursuance of a resolution adopted at the Rome Conference for the convening of the second International Conference on Emigration and Immigration to be held in an immigration country.

The purpose of the Rome Conference as explained by the Italian Government in issuing its invitation was to examine emigration and immigration problems of a technical nature with a view to facilitating a coordination of action between nations in dealing with them. The Cuban Government in asking that this Government send delegates to the forthcoming Conference at Habana stated that it was hoped to reach final conclusions on certain of the questions considered at the Rome Conference. The nature of the questions to be discussed at Habana is indicated in some detail in the agenda of the Conference, copies of which have been made available to you.63

The attitude of this Government regarding immigration is a matter of historical record and was accurately and forcefully expressed by the Honorable Henry P. Fletcher at the Pan American Conference of 192864 in the following terms:

“The delegation of the United States desires in connection with this resolution (i. e. regarding international aspects of emigration and immigration) to state that the Government of the United States considers that control of immigration is a matter of purely domestic [Page 506] concern, representing the exercise of a sovereign right, and that, as far as the United States of America is concerned, the authority of its Congress in immigration matters is exclusive.”

You will make clear at the Conference this Government’s position with respect to immigration as above indicated, and you will take no action inconsistent with the attitude and prerogatives of the Congress of the United States in this connection or in any way committing the Government of the United States. The performance of this duty will be the paramount consideration of the delegation and will at all times determine the attitude to be taken by the delegation in the proceedings of the Conference.

The position of the United States on questions of immigration is well known to the nations participating in the Conference, and it is believed that a similar attitude will be adopted by many of them, notably by the Latin-American countries whose immigration problems are similar to our own. The reaffirmation of this principle that immigration is a matter of purely domestic concern, not only by the United States but by other countries, will obviously operate to the advantage of this Government, and will also afford the United States the opportunity to cooperate with Latin-American countries in a helpful manner and thus to continue the work of the Pan American Conference.

While your attitude will be governed by the above consideration, it is, however, desired that you take a helpful and appropriate part in the discussions of the Conference and of its Committees on the various technical questions before the Conference which are or have been of particular interest to the United States. You may inform your colleagues in the Conference of the forms in which these questions have presented themselves to the United States, and the methods of this Government in dealing with them; and you may describe the aims and policies of this Government regarding them, and the legislative and administrative machinery which it has established to carry out those aims and policies. Likewise you should be careful to note any information furnished by your colleagues in the Conference which may be of value to this Government, and any suggestions which may appear to merit its consideration, for incorporation in your report.

It is believed that participation on this basis will enable the United States to contribute to the work of the Conference within the limitations imposed by its standing policy on immigration, especially as evidenced by the Immigration Act of 192465 and other legislation. You should, however, make clear to the Conference from the beginning that this represents the full extent to which the United States [Page 507] can take part in any discussion between nations on the problems of emigration and immigration.

It is thus apparent that your efforts in the Conference will be confined to discussion of the technical matters presented, to observing the trend of the Conference, and to safeguarding and reaffirming the position of the United States on immigration on such occasions as may be appropriate. It is equally clear that you should refrain from voting on any of the resolutions presented to the Conference for approval without the specific authorization of this Government. While in the vast majority of cases it will be obvious that a vote by this Government would be inappropriate, nevertheless it is possible that certain resolutions may be put forward on which it may seem desirable to put this Government on record: such as, for example, a proposal for the convening of a Third International Conference on Emigration and Immigration. In such cases the delegation should ask this Government for instructions, by cable through the Department of State.

For your further information and guidance there are attached:66

A collection of documents illustrative of the historical and diplomatic background of the Conference and of American immigration policy in general;
An annotated copy of the agenda of the Habana Conference indicating the special considerations attaching to the discussion of the various questions by the American delegates.

I need not remind you of the importance which this Government attaches to the manner in which you carry out the mission with which you are now entrusted, involving as it does the authoritative and effective presentation in an international gathering of one of the most important of the national policies of the United States. It is my confident hope that you will be able to carry this mission to a successful conclusion.

I am [etc.]

Frank B. Kellogg
  1. See Foreign Relations, 1923, vol. i, pp. 115 ff.
  2. For English text, see Diario Oficial, first vol. i, p. 43.
  3. See pp. 527 ff.
  4. 43 Stat. 153.
  5. Enclosures not printed.