840.48 Refugees/1032: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Minister in the Netherlands (Gordon)

95. Your 153, December 2, 1 p.m. While the humanitarian attitude of the Netherlands Government as reflected in its desire to grant temporary refuge to certain refugees from Germany is well understood and appreciated by this Government you should make clear that there is no provision under our immigration laws or practice which would make possible in any considerable number of cases the cooperation with the Netherlands authorities which would be envisaged by the procedure outlined in your telegram. Such a procedure would involve what is equivalent to eventual guarantees that the refugees will be able to emigrate eventually to the United States. Should the Netherlands Government admit substantial numbers of refugees with the understanding, however indefinite or implied, that they would later be admitted into the United States, and should substantial numbers of these refugees later be found inadmissible into the United States, the possibility of serious misunderstandings between the two governments over this situation is apparent.

Under existing immigration laws it would not be possible for American Consular Officers in Germany or elsewhere to give definite assurance that applicants for visas would be found qualified to receive them when their turns are reached under the quota or that it will [Page 867] become possible to take final action in their cases within any specified period. The Immigration Act of 192489 requires a Consular Officer to refuse an immigration visa to an alien who he finds, or has reason to believe, is inadmissible into the United States under the immigration laws. The qualification of an applicant therefore cannot be determined until he appears for final examination at the consular office. In view of the quota restrictions of the act and of the present large demand against the German quota, it would also be impossible to forecast with any degree of accuracy the precise time within which the cases of applicants may be reached under the quota for final consideration.

The question which has been raised with you by the Foreign Minister is undoubtedly based on the fact that our Consular Officers in Germany have in a limited number of cases issued letters to minor children and to certain persons confined in concentration camps or in immediate danger that their documents have been examined and found to be adequate and that their turn on the waiting list of the quota to which they belong for final examination for a visa will probably be reached in a given number of months. On the basis of such letters the governments of various countries apparently have permitted the temporary admission of such aliens for residence pending their name being reached on the waiting list and final examination for a visa before an American Consular Officer in an intermediate country. It is in no sense intended by this Government that such letters should be issued as a general practice or in large numbers as it might be construed as equivalent to granting promissory notes on the quotas and as indirectly assuming an obligation vis-à-vis other governments that in a given time an immigration visa may be issued. It is obviously impossible for an American Consular Officer to give any assurance that a visa will be issued until the final examination for the visa takes place and this cannot take place until the name of the applicant is reached on the waiting list.

The humanitarian attitude of certain governments in receiving refugees for temporary residence pending immigration to another country is appreciated but it should be made clear to the Foreign Minister that this Government can assume in no case any obligation beforehand that an immigration visa permitting an alien to proceed to this country will be granted. While it is to be anticipated that most of those aliens who may undergo a preliminary examination for a visa before one of our Consular Officers in Germany and whose application is provisionally approved will eventually be able to satisfy the requirements of our immigration laws when their turn is reached under the quota for final examination, no guarantees can be given in any individual [Page 868] case. Such letters which may be given by our Consular Officers in connection with a preliminary examination may possibly be of assistance to the Netherlands authorities in considering in individual cases whether they wish to grant the refugee permission to enter the Netherlands to reside until their turns shall be reached for final consideration but such letters cannot be considered in any sense as a guarantee by this Government that an immigration visa will eventually be issued.

  1. Approved May 26, 1924; 43 Stat, 153.