811.06 M/1–1752

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Director of the Office of Middle American Affairs ( Rubottom )



  • Mexican Agricultural Workers.
  • Participants: Mr. David Stowe, the White House;
  • Mr. Thomas C. Mann, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs, ARA;
  • Mr. R. R. Rubottom, Jr., Deputy Director, Office of Middle American Affairs, MID.

Mr. Mann and I called on Mr. Stowe at his request to discuss the United States–Mexico migrant labor situation. Mr. Stowe began by telling us that the prospects of getting prompt action by the Congress on the so-called penalty legislation had been dimmed by the decision in the House to give the omnibus immigration bill1 priority over all other proposed legislation. There is, according to him, no chance of having the Walter Bill 2 brought up first and, while the omnibus immigration bill contains all of the Walter Bill’s items except the anti-pirating clause, the debate on the omnibus bill will be lengthy and there is no assurance of its ultimate fate.

Mr. Stowe told us that, in the meantime, there was a reasonably good prospect that the legislation required to meet the President’s program and to carry out his commitment to President Aleman might be passed by the Senate. He said that several representatives of the growers were keeping in touch with him and that they were working on their friends in the Congress to get the desired legislation passed at the earliest possible moment. There is a possibility that the bill will pass the Senate by February 1 or at least prior to the termination on February 11 of the 1951 agreement with Mexico.

President Truman is holding firm to his decision that there will be no new labor agreement with Mexico unless the Walter Bill or something similar is enacted into law but, according to Mr. Stowe, the situation will be re-examined should the legislation pass even one House prior to February 11, i.e., the Senate.

[Page 1326]

During the course of our conversation, Mr. Mann and I pointed out to Mr. Stowe the difficulties involved in allowing the present agreement to expire, thereby requiring that a completely new agreement be negotiated with Mexico in the event a decision is reached to seek another agreement. We mentioned that, while Mexico has already achieved in the present agreement most of what she was seeking a year or two ago, we could reasonably expect that she would seek even more if another agreement has to be formulated. It was further pointed out that the existence of a migrant labor agreement is one of the greatest deterrents to the entry of illegal wetbacks and that, without an agreement, a serious border problem would probably result from the increased illegal traffic which would almost certainly follow.

Finally, we indicated that from the standpoint of the United States bargaining position both at home in dealing with the growers and abroad in dealing with Mexico, it behooved this Government to reach a final decision on whether it is more in our national interest to try to maintain a migrant labor agreement, whether or not the legislation is passed, or to let the agreement expire and get along without an agreement regardless of the consequences.

Mr. Stowe expressed his understanding of all of the above considerations and said that regardless of the outcome of the migrant labor agreement, he felt strongly we should ask the Mexicans to do more than it has in the past to cut down the exit of potential illegal wetbacks from Mexico.

  1. Presumably a reference to the bill which became the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.
  2. The Walter Bill (S. 1851, 82d Cong., 2d sess.) made it a felony to aid anyone entering the country illegally or to harbor or conceal an illegal alien. Debate on the bill began in the Senate on Feb. 5, 1952. It passed the Senate on Feb. 6, the House on Feb. 26, and was signed by President Truman on Mar. 20, 1952, becoming Public Law 283; for text, see 66 Stat. 26.