SCA files, lot 62 D 146, “RRP—General Legislation”

Memorandum by the Administrator of the Refugee Relief Program (McLeod) to the President’s Deputy Assistant (Persons)1

Re: Legislative Support for Refugee Relief Program

In the Cabinet briefing2 I alluded to H.R. 1893, an amendment to the basic legislation, which would be most helpful in administering this Act. This bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In brief it provides that 45,000 numbers set aside in the Act for refugees in Italy will be freed from this narrow compartmentalization and the Administrator would have discretion to use these numbers to issue visas either to refugees or preference cases. Since we have over 70,000 preference cases backlogged in Italy, and since the refugees in Italy are somewhat synthetic in that they are actually, for the most part, returnees from Italian colonies, it is doubtful if we could find more than 15,000 bona fide refugees to meet the definitions of the Act. It is apparent, therefore, that passage of this legislation, which would enable administrative discretion, would be most helpful.

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In testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee following the Cabinet meeting, Senator McCarran brought up this subject and indicated he was willing to pass the bill with an amendment providing that the preference people obtain the same assurances for housing and employment as are required for the refugees under the Act. I pointed out to him, at the Committee meeting, the operational difficulties involved in returning the petitions to the United States and obtaining the assurances, indicating that unless this matter was clearly specified there would be a confusion of jurisdiction in the matter since the preference petitions are handled by the Attorney General and are approved by him without reference to the Department of State.

If the amendments suggested by Senator McCarran are the only way to get the bill, I suppose it is worth the extra time and trouble. It is my view that these assurances are quite meaningless, insofar as the public welfare of the U. S. is concerned, since it makes no difference to the Federal Government where an alien is housed or is employed as long as he is not a public charge. His relative has already assured that he will not become a public charge when the petition is approved and forwarded overseas. Consequently, the suggested McCarran Amendment is only window dressing. Since Senator McCarran maintains such a rigid control of this Committee I doubt that we could outvote him on the amendments and it probably would be better to try to knock them out on the floor rather than have the Committee continue to sit on the legislation.

Any help you can give us on getting this thing out and getting it passed would be appreciated and I think that it would be possible to iron out any difficulties in the bill in conference with the House. I thought you should have this information so that the President could allude to this bill, as well as the budget, in his conference with the legislative leaders.

  1. Maj. Gen. Wilton B. Persons, U.S. Army (Ret.).
  2. Reference is to the Cabinet meeting of July 9, the minutes of which are printed, supra.