811.2222 (1940)/162

The Acting Secretary of State to President Roosevelt

My Dear Mr. President: The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 provides for the registration of all male aliens in the United States within specified ages and makes all such aliens who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States liable for training and service.

The Department has received communications from a number of the foreign diplomatic missions complaining that nationals of their countries have been drafted for training. It is to be borne in mind that declarations of intention to become citizens do not have the effect of changing the nationality status of the declarants. Some of the complaints, namely, those from the Mexican Embassy, are based upon alleged violation of principles of international law which it is contended exempt aliens from military service. Others are based upon treaty provisions. For example, the German Embassy has invoked [Page 571] article VI of the treaty signed in 1923 providing that if either party is at war it may draft for military service nationals of the other who have a permanent residence within its territory and who have declared an intention to adopt its nationality “unless such individuals depart from the territories of said belligerent Party within sixty days after a declaration of war.” The Embassy construes the treaty to mean that neither party has a right to draft declarants unless it is at war. There is probably justification for such construction.

The treaty of 1902 with Spain is more specific. It provides that “The citizens or subjects of each of the High Contracting Parties shall be exempt in the territories of the other from all compulsory military service, by land or sea”. A similar provision is contained in article II of the convention of 1850 with Switzerland.

The Selective Service Act of 1917, like the present act, provided for the drafting of declarant aliens. So many complaints were received from foreign governments that an act of Congress, approved July 9, 1918, was passed providing that declarants might be relieved from the obligation to serve by withdrawing their declarations of intention but that they should thereafter be debarred from becoming citizens. The Department recently suggested to Mr. Dykstra the desirability of similar legislation with respect to declarants under the Selective Training and Service Act.

In a letter of March 10, 1941, the Deputy Director of the Selective Service System suggests that, in the event that the Department deems it advisable to make a recommendation to Congress, it should read:

Provided, That any male alien residing in the United States who has declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States who is registered or who is or may become liable to registration under the provisions of this Act shall be relieved from liability to training and service thereunder if he makes a declaration prior to becoming a member of the land or naval forces or within a time fixed by the President if he is already a member of the land or naval forces, in accordance with such regulations as the President may prescribe, withdrawing his intention to become a citizen of the United States which shall be held to cancel his declaration of intention to become a citizen of the United States and to forever bar him from becoming such a citizen.”

In view of the fact that a request for exemption from the obligation to serve indicated that the declarant is not well disposed toward the welfare of this country and its ideals, it seems only fair to say that if such a person is willing to withdraw his declaration in order to avoid service, he should not thereafter be permitted to become a citizen. It might even be desirable to go a step further and to provide for deportation of such persons under rules and regulations which would not work too great hardship.

[Page 572]

I shall be glad to have your views as to whether we should recommend the enactment of legislation along the lines of the quoted draft; also whether there should be an added provision regarding deportation.

Faithfully yours,

Sumner Welles

[Approval having been received from the President on April 1, the Secretary of State transmitted, on April 15, a draft copy of the bill to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the Vice President; see Department of State Bulletin, April 19, 1941, page 478. The bill passed the Senate on June 30 and was referred to the House Military Affairs Committee on July 8; Congressional Record, volume 87, pages 5726 and 5871. For text of section 3 (a) as it appears in the amendments to the Selective Training and Service Act, approved December 20, 1941, see 55 Stat. 844, 845.

The numerous complaints that continued to be registered throughout the year by foreign diplomatic missions were acknowledged by the Department of State with information regarding the bill pending in Congress.]