The Attorney General (Biddle) to the Secretary of State 19

My Dear Mr. Secretary: I acknowledge your letter of December 6th,20 enclosing a copy of the aide-mémoire21 from the Soviet Ambassador requesting this Government to return Victor A. Kravchenko to Russia.

[Page 1133]

The only available methods by which this Russian national might be lawfully apprehended and deported from this country are either extradition or deportation under the immigration laws.22 Apparently it is not suggested that he is subject to extradition and it is not understood that the Soviet Government is requesting his return under any extradition treaty. It does not appear that extradition would be applicable to such a case, but this of course is a matter for your consideration.

Deportation under the immigration laws traditionally is a matter between this Government and the alien. It has not been and cannot be used as a substitute for extradition at the request of a foreign government. Deportation can be accomplished only after a formal hearing prescribed by the immigration procedure at which the individual must be given an opportunity to prove that if deported to a particular place he would be subject to political persecution. In such a case the immigration practice requires that the deportation order give the individual a reasonable time to depart voluntarily to any country of his own choice in lieu of deportation to the country whence he came. In many cases, due to the war-time restrictions on travel, individuals have been given a period of four months after the termination of hostilities to depart voluntarily in lieu of deportation to a country in which they claim they would be subject to political persecution.

In the regular course of events a warrant for the arrest of this individual in a deportation proceeding will be issued and eventually an order of deportation, in the event of his failure to depart voluntarily, will be made. In this case, as in thousands of others, deportation proceedings have not been instituted immediately upon the termination of the lawful temporary residence of the alien because immediate deportation or voluntary departure is not possible.

It is noted that the aide-mémoire from the Soviet Ambassador refers to the fact that this Russian national was on active military service in the Red Army. However, his status in this country is not a military one. His passport, I am informed, described him as an “engineer in the Division of Metals in the Soviet Government Purchasing Commission.”

In connection with this case it has been called to my attention that the military authorities of the United States have entered into informal arrangements with the military authorities of Canada, Great Britain and Mexico whereby deserters in the United States from the military forces of those co-belligerents are apprehended in the United States by military police, transported to our borders and surrendered to representatives of the governments of those countries. I am advised [Page 1134] that no such arrangement has been made with the Russian military authorities in the absence of any use for such an arrangement up to the present time. Moreover I am advised that this practice is not based upon any executive agreements or other formal arrangements with these governments; and I am not aware of any legal authority for this practice. I shall appreciate it if you will advise me of any information in your possession on the matter.

Sincerely yours,

Francis Biddle
  1. This letter was handed to the Secretary of State by the Attorney General after a Cabinet meeting on January 5. In a memorandum of the same date the Under Secretary of State, Joseph C. Grew, recorded that during “a conference today with the Secretary, the Attorney General, and Mr. J. Edgar Hoover [Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation], the Kravchenko case was discussed and it was the consensus of opinion that Kravchenko should not be turned over to the Soviet authorities unless they could submit evidence proving that he was in the Soviet Army when he came to the United States.” (861.01B11/1–545)
  2. Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. iv, p. 1238.
  3. Aide-Mémoire of November 24, 1944, ibid., p. 1235.
  4. Immigration Act, approved May 26, 1924, as amended on July 1, 1932, and July 1, 1940; 43 Stat. 153, 47 Stat. 524, 54 Stat. 711.