811.504/2163: Telegram

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

408. Reference Department’s telegram no. 630 of April 24, 6 p.m.10 It is hoped that Agriculture understands the consequences of refusal to accept the Mexican proposal regarding lodging and subsistence. It came as a complete surprise to the Mexicans to learn during the present negotiations that Mexican workers are not receiving lodging and subsistence during the 25% period but are receiving these minimum comforts only when needy and on a welfare basis. Therefore the present Mexican proposal merely confirms what the Mexicans state was originally intended as the meaning of this guaranty under the original wording of the agreement. The Mexican argument designed to rebut our contention that such treatment of Mexican workers amounts to discrimination against domestic workers is as follows: (1). The American worker usually has his family who can take care of him during a period when he is not earning wages, the Mexican has no such recourse. (2). The American worker may change his employment freely when he finds he can earn more wages somewhere else. The Mexican may not change his employment during the period of his contract without violating the contract. The Mexicans also refer to the possibility that the Farm Security Administration may not continue to administer this program after June 30; with subsistence only available to Mexican workers where needed and on a grant basis, the Mexicans insist on adequate guaranties that whatever agency administers this program after June 30 will be obliged to furnish lodging and subsistence as a part of the guarantee to the Mexican worker.

I believe therefore if we return with a flat rejection simply on the basis of our present policy we may be fairly certain the present negotiations will collapse. We have reached complete agreement on all other phases of our negotiations on the agricultural and non-agricultural agreements. As I have repeatedly pointed out to the Department these are very delicate matters and I believe our refusal to [Page 547] accede to this most reasonable proposal of the Mexicans will result in a stoppage of recruiting and an imputing [impugning] of our good faith in the entire undertaking. I should emphasize that it is probable that difficulty over this aspect of agricultural agreement may prejudice non-agricultural agreement. We had expected to sign both this week.

  1. Not printed; it conveyed the rejection by the Department of Agriculture of any change in the existing practice of providing food and lodging to the migratory workers (811.504/2162a).