The Secretary of State to the Consul at Geneva ( Gilbert )

Reference is made to the Department’s telegraphic instruction of even date5 designating Mr. Curtis T. Everett as an observer at an Inter-Governmental Conference to be held at Geneva on July 2, 1936, with a view to arranging a system of legal protection for refugees coming from Germany.

In connection with the Conference under reference, there is transmitted herewith a memorandum which has been prepared in the Department for the use of Mr. Everett.


The Department has designated an observer at the Inter-Governmental Conference, to be convened at Geneva on July 2, 1936, with a view to arranging a system of legal protection for refugees coming from Germany, but does not wish this designation to be interpreted as indicating a desire on the part of the United States Government to participate actively in that Conference.

The German refugee problem has as one of its basic elements, in relation to the United States, the question of the immigration laws governing the admission of aliens into the United States.

These laws, and the regulations issued thereunder, are contained in large part in Section 361 in the Consular Regulations, with which the observer should familiarize himself to such an extent as to be able to answer any questions or give such advice as may be requested with reference to the conditions under which refugees from Germany, as well as all other classes of immigrants, may be admitted into the United States.

Under normal conditions, the legal protection of refugees of all nationalities in the United States is provided in this country primarily by the local and State authorities, and not by the authorities of the Federal Government. There would be serious difficulties, both legal and administrative, in trying to enforce in the United States any convention requiring the establishment of uniform rules throughout the country for the legal protection of alien refugees.

With respect to the question of the deportation of alien refugees, it is the practice of the Federal Government to arrange for transportation and subsistence to the actual place of residence abroad of all persons deported or repatriated in accordance with the immigration laws. Arrangements are made for special care and attention when [Page 209] the condition of the deported person requires it. The necessary passports and visas are obtained in order that the deported or repatriated person will have no difficulty in passing in transit to his own country. It is the practice of the Government not to deport or repatriate aliens who cannot obtain travel documents admitting them to some other country. Deportations and repatriations are generally not carried out in cases where it is shown that there would be danger to the alien’s life in the country to which he is to be sent.

As to the treatment of alien refugees in the United States, there is generally speaking no legal distinction, as regards the standing of an individual under the law, between an American citizen and an alien residing in the United States. Such legal protection as is granted to American citizens may therefore be considered in general as covering equally the cases of aliens in this country.

  1. Not printed.