The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Switzerland ( Hawks )

No. 3119

Sir: The Department has received the Legation’s despatch No. 3970 of July 22, 1935, with its enclosure, circular letter No. 111 of July 19, 1935, addressed to the Secretary of State by the Secretary General of the League of Nations, requesting information regarding the possibility of settling Russian, Armenian, Assyrian, Assyro-Chaldean and Turkish refugees in the United States.

You are instructed to transmit to the Secretary General of the League the attached note with enclosed memorandum, prepared by the Visa Division of the Department.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Wilbur J. Carr

The Secretary of State to the Secretary General of the League of Nations ( Avenol )

The Secretary of State of the United States of America has received, with appreciation, the note of the Secretary General of the League of Nations, dated July 19, 1935, asking the Government of the United States for information regarding the possibility of settling refugees in the territory of the United States, and has the honor to transmit, in reply, a memorandum for submission to the Nansen International Office.

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Memorandum With Reference to Circular Letter No. 111, Dated July 19, 1935, From the Secretary General of the League of Nations Concerning the Possibility of Settling Refugees in the United States

In discussing the question of settling refugees from foreign countries in the United States, it should be stated at the outset that the authority of the Secretary of State is limited to the determination, by the Department’s consular officers abroad, of the question whether or not individual aliens are admissible under existing immigration laws. The actual admission of aliens at the ports of the United States is in the hands of the immigration officials of the Department of Labor, but no alien may successfully apply for admission as an immigrant without being in possession of a consular immigration visa.

The Secretary of State is not in a position to express any views as to the disposition in the United States of such aliens as may be admitted into the country for permanent residence. There are a number of welfare, social service, Americanization, and foreign language organizations in the United States which deal with such problems and to which individual cases might be referred for helpful advice.

The issuance of immigration visas, which is the basic determining factor of the character and extent of foreign immigration into the United States, is placed by law upon American consular officers abroad. These officers are guided by the various immigration laws enacted by Congress. The two most important laws of this character are the Act of February 5, 1917,3 which enumerates some forty classes of aliens who are inadmissible on various grounds, principally physical, mental and moral; and the Act of May 26, 1924,4 which imposes numerical limitations on immigration from the various countries of the world.

Neither the Secretary of State nor any other United States authority is empowered to make arrangements for group immigration, since the tests to be applied are individual in character and the various cases must therefore be treated individually rather than in groups.

During the recent years of increased unemployment in the United States a very large proportion of immigration visa applicants have been refused visas in view of the excluding clause of the Act of February 5, 1917, covering “aliens likely to become a public charge”. This clause has operated to reduce immigration to very small figures, immigration now being less than one-tenth of what it was in 1929 and [Page 501] previous years, although the basic laws themselves have not been fundamentally changed since that time.

Another excluding clause of the Act of February 5, 1917, which might have a bearing upon requests for the immigration of foreign groups is that clause which includes within the inadmissible classes “persons whose ticket or passage is paid for by any corporation, association, society, municipality, or foreign government, either directly or indirectly”.

  1. 39 Stat 874.
  2. 43 Stat. 159.