The Secretary of State to the Diplomatic Representatives in the American Republics
Sirs: Reference is made to the Department’s circular instruction of November 8, 1945 in regard to the establishment of the Alien Enemy Control Section and the procedure to be followed in determining the disposition of alien enemies from the other American republics now interned in the United States. The process of releasing certain alien enemies from internment has now begun, the first group consisting of four persons from Costa Rica and one from El Salavador. For its own information and in order properly to deal with questions which may arise, the Embassy should know what is going on and why.
The immediate cause of the release of three of the persons mentioned was that they had filed habeas corpus petitions alleging that they were not German natives or citizens and that therefore this Government had no power to hold them. Examination of their files disclosed [Page 295] that there was in fact insufficient evidence that they were German citizens to warrant their further detention under the Alien Enemy Act,42 which constitutes the legal basis for the entire internment and repatriation program. A number of other habeas corpus cases are pending, and it may well be that in the course of the next few weeks several of the internees will be released on the ground that they are not natives or citizens of an enemy country. The Department does not, however, propose to release any person on this ground where German citizenship can be proved by Nazi Party membership or Nazi activity.
An issue with broader implications for the program as a whole is presented by the other two cases, where the internees released are admittedly German citizens. These persons were released in accordance with standards drawn up by the Alien Enemy Control Section and approved by the Assistant Secretary for American Republics Affairs and by the Secretary. These standards are to be used for the purpose of determining whether particular German aliens should be considered dangerous to the future security of the hemisphere and hence repatriated to Germany or whether they could be released and allowed to return to the countries from which they came. They are embodied in a “Statement of Policy” which is enclosed for your information43 and which must be kept highly confidential, at least for the time being.
The general theory of the standards is simple: the key figures in the Nazi network should be repatriated, without regard to mitigating circumstances or hardship factors such as family ties. In the case of active, but less important Nazis, mitigating circumstances or hardship factors will be considered. Implicit in the standards is the principle that the Department will not press for the repatriation of those who have been simply “pro-Nazi” or “pro-German” without doing anything about it.
The Embassy will recognize that these standards reflect a distinct shift in policy since August, when it was proposed to effect the repatriation of all but a handful of those Germans and Italians who had been deported to this country. Some of the Missions have expressed strong views in favor of such a sweeping program, and they are entitled to know the explanation for its modification.
The most important factor in this shift was the decision that this Government could not repatriate alien enemies brought from the other American republics without the full consent and cooperation of the countries from which they came, because:
- To do so would be detrimental to our relations with the other American republics, especially since some of them believe that they [Page 296] never relinquished jurisdiction over the persons sent here for internment;
- The Alien Enemy Act which gives the President power to intern and remove alien enemies in time of war seems clearly to require that the alien be given an opportunity to “depart” from the country before he can be “removed,” which would mean that if he were able to obtain a visa to the country from which he came (or to any other country) he would be able to escape removal to Germany.
Having arrived at the decision that full cooperation from the other American republics was necessary, it became clear that this Government could not press for a more ruthless repatriation program in the case of alien enemies brought from Latin America than it was following with respect to alien enemies who had been resident in this country. Accordingly, the standards set up were patterned after those followed by the Department of Justice in selecting enemy aliens resident here for repatriation (it is anticipated that some 400 persons, not including families, will be repatriated under the Justice Department’s program).
Some of the Embassies may feel that, in those instances where American republics had consented to the earlier broad proposal for repatriation, the Department should have quickly taken advantage of that consent and effected the repatriation. However, the Department felt that it could not do so because: (1) the legal authority of the Government to carry out involuntary repatriation had been challenged in the courts and (2) since those countries who objected strenuously to the proposal were in a position to make their opposition effective, it was feared that those who had consented would later feel that they had been imposed upon.
The plan now is to review all the evidence on the individual cases and to prepare lists of those who appear to fall within the standards for repatriation and those who do not. Those lists will then be presented to the Governments concerned, possibly together with a brief summary of the facts in each case, and every effort will be made to persuade them to let this Government proceed with steps looking toward repatriation (those steps to include an informal hearing in each case where requested by the individual, final review by an Assistant Secretary, and the issuance of a removal order). In addition to obtaining the other American republics’ consent to our procedure, it will be necessary to persuade them to refuse visas to the persons concerned. It is hoped that this program may be buttressed by the issuance of a resolution by the Inter-American Emergency Committee for Political Defense outlining ways and means for implementing Resolution VII of the Final Act of Mexico City.
In general, it will be the policy of the Department not to release individuals until all the cases from a particular country have been [Page 297] reviewed. However, as has already happened in a few cases, particular circumstances may decree otherwise. Individual releases are especially to be anticipated in those cases where the individual does not appear to be a native or citizen of an enemy country.
It should be emphasized that the Department’s present policy with respect to the disposition of the alien enemies interned here does not in any sense constitute a repudiation of the policy followed in interning them in this country. It seems entirely appropriate that the standards applied in determining whether to intern an alien enemy during the course of hostilities should be broader than those applied in determining whether permanently to bar a man from the hemisphere, especially if he has an American wife or child. Moreover, it should be made clear to the Governments and peoples of the other American republics that the release of an alien enemy from internment is not a “whitewash”. The fact that he is released in no way constitutes an admission that he should not have been interned, nor does it mean that he is not regarded as a Nazi; at most it means that he is not considered sufficiently dangerous to exclude from the hemisphere, and it may mean only that he does not appear to be a native or citizen of an enemy country (in such a case, it may well be desirable to urge the country to which he is returned to deport him to Germany under its laws). Cases may arise where a person being released remains on the “hard core” Proclaimed List.44 If questions are raised about such cases, it should be emphasized that different standards are applicable, and that a man’s release from internment does not mean that his name ought to be deleted from the Proclaimed List.
The situation may fairly be summarized as follows: the Department has not in any way modified its view that Resolution VII of the Mexico City Conference must be implemented to the fullest possible extent, both with respect to the alien enemies now in this country and those in other American republics; however, in view of the various political and legal difficulties which have arisen, the Department has come to the conclusion that greater success will be achieved by concentrating on the repatriation of the most dangerous people than by seeking to accomplish wholesale repatriations with the attendant risk of total failure.
While Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela did not deport alien enemies for internment in the United States, it is believed that this instruction will serve a useful purpose as background material for the missions in those countries particularly in connection with Resolution VII of the Final Act of Mexico City.
Very truly yours,