Consular Affairs files, lot 53 D 223, “VD Legislation, 1952”

Memorandum by the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration (Humelsine) to the Secretary of State1


To determine the position which the Department should take with respect to immigration and naturalization legislation being considered in the Congress.


On April 25 the House passed the Walter Omnibus Immigration and Naturalization Bill (H.R. 5678) by a vote of 206–68. Except for minor technicalities the Walter Bill is substantially parallel to the McCarren Bill (S. 2550) which is scheduled for early debate. They both are comprehensive codifications of all existing legislation in the field. They both also contain the following significant changes from existing laws:

Remove all racial barriers to naturalization and all discrimination between sexes.
Establish quotas based on ⅙ of 1% of the people of the United States who had a foreign national origin according to the census of 1920.
Limit dependent colonies to 100 quota immigrants annually, under the mother country’s quota.
Introduce a system of selective immigration by making the first 50% of every country quota available for technically skilled immigrants needed in the United States.
Provide procedures comparable to those of the Administrative Procedures Act2 in most cases involving exclusion or deportation of aliens.
Provide specific procedures designed to weed out subversive elements.

Two other bills must be considered in determining the Department’s stand on this legislation. One of these, supported by Senators Lehman, Humphrey, Kefauver,3 and others, is likewise an omnibus bill (S. 2842). It contains many of the same technical provisions as the McCarran and Walter proposals, as well as a number of differences. The most significant differences include the following: [Page 1589]

Removes all racial discrimination in immigration cases, whereas the McCarran–Walter Bills provide in general that persons of Asiatic races born in other countries will be charged back to the quota of the mother Asiatic country.
Changes the basis of quotas from the census of 1920 to the census of 1950, which would increase the world quota from approximately 150,000 annually to approximately 238,000 annually.
Provides for pooling unused quota numbers for use by immigrants from countries whose quotas are over-subscribed.
Continues the present unlimited use of the quotas of mother countries by dependent colonies. (The McCarran–Walter Bills limit such use to 100 annually.)
Cancels the mortgage on all future quotas as required by the Displaced Persons Act.
Limits the President’s authority to curtail immigration to times of war or national emergency.
Eliminates the loss of United States citizenship by a naturalized person residing continuously for five years in a foreign country, as provided both in existing law and in the McCarran–Walter Bills.

It is unlikely that the Lehman Bill will get very far in the Senate. A number of similar amendments were defeated in the House during debate on the Walter Bill.

The final bill in this series is the Celler Bill (H.R. 7376). This is not an omnibus codification. It authorizes the admission of 300,000 displaced persons and refugees, continuing the displaced persons program as suggested in the President’s recent message. The Department previously advised the White House against bringing up the extension of the displaced persons program until adequate assurance of favorable consideration had been arranged. We wanted to avoid arousing unrealistic hopes on the part of foreign nationals, whose disappointment might adversely affect our foreign relations.

I understand that a number of the White House staff actively favor the Celler Bill. The President himself undoubtedly favors the principle of this proposal, as do a number of Congressmen from large metropolitan centers.


The immediate question is how far the Department should go in lending its support to either the Celler displaced persons measure or the Lehman Omnibus Immigration Bill in view of the concerted support of the two committees and of the House membership in favor of the McCarran and Walter Bills, which are generally acceptable to us.

Realistically it seems unlikely that the Lehman or Celler proposals stand much chance of being passed. The temper of Congress on these matters is basically conservative, as evidenced by the House vote on the Walter Bill and the rejection of a series of amendments [Page 1590] aimed at liberalizing its provisions. Most members of Congress appear to hold strongly for preserving the same balance of national origin characteristics which prevailed in the American population in 1920. While the McCarran–Walter Bills are not perfect, they represent a big step forward in codifying the present labyrinth of laws in this field—and are probably the best version that can be passed at this time.

On balance, I believe we would be wasting our efforts if we tried to persuade Congress to support the Lehman or Celler Bills, and might risk alienating the sponsors of the McCarran and Walter Bills.

Carlisle H. Humelsine
  1. Drafted by Donovan Q. Zook, Special Assistant, Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Administration.
  2. Reference is to the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 (Public Law 79–404), enacted June 11, 1946; for text, see 60 Stat. 237. The Act was designed to formalize the administrative procedures of government agencies and set up uniform standards for agency adjudications and for judicial review.
  3. Estes Kefauver (D.–Tenn.).