Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to President Truman
As you know, the Department is very anxious to see favorable action taken on the Celler bill for the extension to East Indians of immigration and naturalization privileges similar to those extended to China last year. This bill was tabled by the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization last March but is being called up for reconsideration on June 14, 1945.
The people of India are following the progress of this legislation with the keenest anxiety and the tabling of the bill last March provoked strong resentment in the Indian press. For example, one journal said that “not until America sees fit to revoke her various humiliating immigration barriers to Indians can we view America and the Americans with anything like the enthusiasm its propaganda seeks to inspire.” Another Indian paper found in the Committee’s action a foretaste of the type of peace to come and concluded that the professions of the western powers apply only to the white races.
When American officials in India recently suggested to the Indian Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council for Planning and Development the desirability of fostering reciprocal trade relations between our two countries, the Member of Council replied that he saw little basis for such reciprocity as long as we maintained our discriminating immigration legislation against Indians. India has plans for post-war economic reconstruction which surpass anything seen elsewhere outside Russia and the country is a great potential market for American goods.
I have received a letter from Lord Halifax in which he assures me that the British Government “would welcome enactment of a law on the lines of the Bill as a gesture of friendship to India which has played, and is playing, so important part in the war.”
As you perhaps know, the late President was keenly interested in the passage of this bill and in a letter to Chairman Dickstein91 said that “the present statutory provisions that discriminate against persons of East Indian descent provoke ill-feeling, now serve no useful purpose, and are incongruous and inconsistent with the dignity pf both our peoples.” In the same connection, he said that he was “very keen to alleviate what really amounts to the growing hostility to the white races in India and other places.”
If the peoples of Asia conclude that they cannot hope to obtain equitable treatment from the white races, a future color war is a distinct possibility. Pearl Harbor is a recent reminder of the bitterness [Page 288] which the oriental can achieve against westerners who treat them as racially inferior.
It should be emphasized that passage of the proposed measure would in no way modify our established quota system. The bill only removes the racial disabilities of present legislation and, if passed, about one-hundred East Indians would be admissible to the United States each year, and would be eligible for naturalization, provided, of course, that they could meet the other requirements of our immigration and naturalization laws.
The Department sincerely hopes that favorable action will be taken on this bill and you may possibly wish to discuss it with Congressman Ramspeck92 and others who opposed it in the Committee.