The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Mexico (Daniels)

No. 1188

Sir: Reference is made to your telegram No. 141 of August 11, 1936, regarding the arrest of General Nicolas Rodriguez and his involuntary expulsion from Mexico “as being politically undesirable” in that country. Your telegram stated that the Mexican military authorities expressed informally to your Military Attaché the hope that General Rodriquez might be admitted immediately into the United States, and you recommended that this be done.

A telegram dated August 11, 8 p.m., has been received from the Vice Consul in charge at Ciudad Juarez reporting the admission into the United States of General Rodriquez and it is inferred from the Vice Consul’s reference to a telegram addressed to him by the Embassy that he may have received instructions from the Embassy in the matter. It is desired that you furnish the Department a copy of any such instructions, in order to complete its record of the case.

As you are undoubtedly aware, it is the traditional policy of the Government of the United States to grant refuge in its territory to persons whose lives are believed to be in jeopardy as a result of their political activities in a foreign country. Such persons applying for admission to the United States as so-called political refugees are customarily admitted for a reasonable period under a liberal interpretation of the immigration laws, provided they can establish to [Page 780] the satisfaction of the competent authorities that their personal safety is actually threatened and that the offenses in which they may have been involved are not such as would render them inadmissible under the law. There would appear, however, to be a marked distinction between persons who thus voluntarily seek refuge in the United States from political persecution in their own country and those who are forced to proceed to the United States under compulsion exercised by the authorities of their Government. In the case of Mexican citizens expelled in this manner, the situation seems to be further complicated by the inhibition contained in Article 5 of the Mexican Constitution, which provides: “No person can legally agree to his own proscription or exile …”

The Department views with some uneasiness an apparent tendency on the part of the Mexican authorities, as exemplified in the case of former President Calles and possibly in the instant case, to impose upon this country certain Mexican citizens, whose presence in Mexico is considered undesirable because of their alleged political activities, and at the same time to expect the Government of the United States to adopt measures to prevent these persons while in the United States from engaging in activities directed against the Government of Mexico. The illogicality of such a position is believed to be obvious. The Government of the United States is fully sensible of its humanitarian duties and of its international obligations toward a friendly foreign government, such as is Mexico, but it would nevertheless be reluctant to extend its hospitality without limit to such persons as the Mexican Government may deem it desirable to thrust upon American territory and assume the burden of responsibility entailed by the adoption of special measures to prevent such persons from engaging in acts against the stability of the Mexican Government which might be in violation of the laws of the United States.

It is not intended that you should communicate any of the foregoing observations to the Mexican Government, but it is desired that you be guided by them in any future recommendations you may make to the Department in connection with cases similar to those referred to in this instruction.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Sumner Welles