Memorandum of Conversation, by the Adviser on Political Relations (Dunn)

The French Ambassador came in this afternoon and presented the attached note, a translation of which I am also attaching.60 As will be seen, the French Government desires to know the form in which this Government would be able to participate in assistance to the alleviation of the sufferings of the Spanish refugees now pouring across the French frontier.

I communicated immediately with Mr. Norman Davis, Chairman of the American Red Cross, to ascertain what steps had been taken by the Red Cross with regard to this situation. Based upon information from Mr. Davis, I told the French Ambassador that the Secretary General of the League of Red Cross Societies, of which Mr. Norman Davis is President, had asked his approval for an appeal to be made to the National Red Cross Societies, members of the League, to give assistance to the French Red Cross in this Spanish refugee situation. Mr. Davis has given his approval of such an appeal, and authorized me to state that the American Red Cross would view with the most sympathetic attitude any appeal from the League of Red Cross Societies or from the French Red Cross for assistance for these refugees. Mr. Davis authorized me to say that possibly the most expeditious contribution the American Red Cross could make would be the sending of foodstuffs or wheat, that there were some difficulties to be overcome in arranging for the transportation and delivery of such a contribution, but that the American Red Cross would gladly undertake to solve those difficulties in order to be of as much help as it could in the circumstances.

After telling the Ambassador of what had been done and what might be done by the American Red Cross, I pointed out to him that there were no funds at the disposal of this Government for participation in this Spanish refugee emergency, and that it would not be possible for this Government to allocate any funds to that purpose in the absence of an express appropriation for the purpose by Congress. I further mentioned that it usually took some little time for such an appropriation to be considered and authorized, and that in view of the emergency nature of the work to be undertaken, it would seem highly [Page 787] advisable for any approach along these lines to be made directly from the French Red Cross to the American Red Cross Society, as it was possible in certain circumstances for the Government to facilitate the furnishing of wheat to the American Red Cross for purposes of this kind. I explained to the Ambassador that I made this suggestion because the American Government was most anxious to be of any assistance it could in alleviating the suffering of these refugees, but as no funds were available to it for relief purposes outside of this country, I felt that this Government’s contribution could best be arranged through the action and direction of the American Red Cross Society.

With regard to the question of admitting into this country a certain number of Spanish refugees, I explained to the Ambassador that the admission of aliens into this country was, of course, regulated by our immigration laws, and it would not be possible to waive any of the requirements of those laws without the specific authority of Congress. I also informed the Ambassador that the annual quota of immigrant visas permitted to be issued to Spaniards was 252, and that at this time a much larger number of applications for visas had been received from Spaniards. I felt, therefore, that the question of admitting any of these refugees to this country was a difficult one, and would not appear to be within the possibilities of consideration as an immediate measure of relieving the difficulties of the situation.

The Ambassador thanked me for this information, and stated that he would inform his Government accordingly.

James Clement Dunn
  1. Not printed.