The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Mexico (Messersmith)
Sir: Reference is made to the Department’s instruction no. 557 of May 7, 194255 regarding proposals under consideration by the appropriate agencies of this Government for the importation of workers from Mexico to supply the increasing demand for labor, especially in agriculture, during the existing emergency.
In further conferences with representatives of other agencies of the Government the Department’s representatives have continued to make it clear that the Department has no facilities for determining the extent to which it may become necessary to seek labor from other countries; that such determination must therefore be made by other agencies; that any importation of labor from Mexico must be approved by the Mexican Government; and that in seeking the approval of that Government it would be highly desirable to present a well formulated program providing adequate guarantees against a repetition of difficulties which have resulted from the immigration of Mexican workers in the past. It has also been made clear that in the event of the importation of Mexican workers the Department of State would have no authority in such matters as transportation of workers to and from this country, and wages and treatment while in this country, its sole function being the presentation for the consideration of the Mexican Government of such proposals as might be formulated by the appropriate agencies of this Government having jurisdiction over matters of this nature.
It has now been determined by the appropriate agencies of this Government that there is a shortage of 6,000 workers in the beet sugar areas of California, Idaho and Montana, and a program has been prepared by those agencies in collaboration with the sugar beet growers’ associations, for the importation of workers from Mexico. In this connection there are enclosed56 copies of a letter dated June 1, 1942 from the Attorney General57 regarding the waiver of the contract labor provisions of the immigration laws to permit the California Field Crops, Incorporated to bring into the United States 3,000 workers from Mexico, and of a letter dated May 22, 1942 from the Chairman of the War Manpower Commission,58 together with the enclosure thereto,—”Statement of Labor Standards for the [Page 538] Recruitment and Employment of Mexican Workers in the Production, Cultivation or Harvesting of Sugar Beets on Farms in the United States”. The Department understands that it is likely that waiver of the contract labor provisions will be made in the near future to permit the importation of an additional 3,000 workers for the sugar beet areas of Idaho and Montana, and that requests are under consideration for the importation of workers needed in the production of other crops, notably long staple cotton.
It therefore becomes necessary to approach the Mexican Government with respect to the question of permitting the temporary emigration to this country of workers to meet our emergency needs, and you are requested to discuss this question with the Minister for Foreign Affairs59 at your earliest opportunity. In your discussion you should mention that this Government is reluctant to make such a request and state that it does so only because of the absolute need as a war measure not only of maintaining but increasing our agricultural production despite the fact that large numbers of agricultural workers have been called into the armed forces and into war industries.
You should also indicate clearly to the Foreign Minister that this Government is aware of the unfortunate conditions which many Mexican workers have encountered in the past and is disposed to make every possible effort to prevent a repetition of those conditions if additional workers are permitted to come to this country for temporary employment to meet the existing emergency. In this connection you should outline the conditions of employment and treatment proposed in the communications from the Attorney General and Chairman of the War Manpower Commission.
It is felt that in your preliminary conversation you should not seek the immediate approval of the plans which have been formulated for the importation of workers, although outlining them sufficiently to indicate the desire of this Government to provide adequate safeguards, but should seek an immediate expression of the Mexican Government’s attitude toward the temporary emigration of workers to this country. In this connection a member of the Mexican Embassy has informally stated that in his opinion the Mexican Government would be opposed in principle to the importation of Mexican workers into this country, but that as an emergency measure it might agree if adequate safeguards are provided for the workers and a joint international commission is established to supervise and control the movement.
It is the Department’s belief that if you ascertain that the Mexican Government would be disposed as an emergency measure to permit [Page 539] the temporary emigration of workers to this country, it would be desirable for representatives of the appropriate agencies of this Government (Departments of Agriculture, Labor and Justice and the War Manpower Commission), and possibly a representative of the sugar beet growers concerned, to proceed immediately to Mexico to assist in making detailed arrangements with the appropriate Mexican officials. This belief is based largely upon the fact that because of the urgency of the need for additional workers, whatever action may be taken in this matter should be taken as soon as possible. While the broader phases of the program formulated by the other agencies of this Government, as set forth in the enclosures, are reasonably clear and doubtless will meet with the approval of the Mexican Government, a number of points will undoubtedly require clarification and it is likely that the Mexican Government will insist upon other conditions not included in the present program. Accordingly, it would seem essential that representatives of the appropriate agencies take an active part in the detailed discussions with the Mexican officials in order that the questions which will undoubtedly arise may be settled promptly and authoritatively.
For your confidential information it may be stated that the Department believes it highly desirable that representatives of the other agencies mentioned take an active part in the negotiations in order that they may be fully impressed with the necessity of adopting adequate measures to insure the compliance with all commitments made to the Mexican Government with respect to conditions under which Mexican workers would be brought into this country.
For your information, it may be stated that if the Mexican Government should propose the establishment of a joint commission for the control of the proposed labor movement, it is probable that arrangements for such a commission could be made. However, it is extremely unlikely that a commission could be established and begin to function soon enough to make arrangements for the importation of the sugar beet workers referred to herein.
You are requested to report by telegram the results of your conversation with the Foreign Minister and, if the Mexican Government indicates a willingness to permit the proposed movement provided adequate safeguards are established and to discuss arrangements therefor with representatives of this Government, whether you concur with the Department’s belief that it would be desirable for representatives of the agencies concerned to proceed to Mexico City for that purpose.
Very truly yours,