MannWoodward files, lot 57 D 598, “Mexico, 1952”

The Ambassador in Mexico ( O’Dwyer ) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs ( Mann )


Dear Tom : Regarding your letter of January 5th, 1952,2 the Embassy is also of the opinion that if the Migratory Labor Agreement3 should expire, and if the flow of wetbacks4 should continue, a relations problem with Mexico could result. I shall make it a point, on an appropriate occasion, to inform Sr. Tello that the President is making every effort to obtain control of the wetback situation, and that it is hoped that the Mexican Government may be able to redouble its efforts to prevent the flow of illegal labor to the United States.

As to the question of penalties for the employment of wetbacks, the Ministry has repeatedly informed representatives of the Embassy that Mexico will not agree to the extension of the present Agreement, nor to the negotiation of a new one, until the United States passes some sort of legislation to apply sanctions against employers of illegals in the United States. Whether Mexico will stand pat on this, we do not know.

We do know that it is of as much interest to Mexico as it is to the United States to maintain some sort of control over the use of Mexican migrant labor in the United States, and it is for this reason I feel that Mexico, when she is convinced that the Congress will not pass legislation for the application of penalties against the employers of illegals, will agree to negotiate a new Agreement. Otherwise, utter confusion will prevail, detrimental to the United States and Mexico.


William O’Dwyer
  1. Not found in Department of State files.
  2. The Migratory Labor Agreement referred to here was signed by the United States and Mexico on Aug. 2, 1951. It specified the conditions under which Mexican laborers (braceros) could be brought into the United States to work for American employers, and it remained in force until Feb. 11, 1952. For the text of the agreement, see United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST), vol. 2 (pt. 2) p. 1940, or Department of Sate Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 2331.
  3. “Wetback” is a colloquial term for a Mexican agricultural laborer who illegally enters the United States to work.