811.06 Mexico/12–453

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to the President 1



  • Mexican Migrant Labor Agreement Negotiations

In view of the great public interest in the Mexican migratory labor problem, you may want to know the present status of the subject:

The agreement regulating the legal entry of migrant laborers from Mexico expires on December 31, 1953.2 This agreement, while of use, has not prevented an alarming increase in illegal entries. Both Governments desire a new agreement, but the United States requires certain fundamental changes to make a new agreement worthwhile. Primarily, these would limit the power of Mexican authorities to obstruct operations by unilateral and arbitrary actions and would make legal entry more attractive to laborers and the use of legal laborers more advantageous to employers, thus reducing illegal entries.

Ambassador White is presenting the United States viewpoint very effectively, but there is yet no assurance a new agreement will be achieved.

Plans are now being formulated whereby, in the absence of an agreement after December 31, Mexican laborers who apply for admission to the United States can be processed unilaterally under essentially the same safeguards as at present. It is anticipated that a large [Page 1354] proportion of those now entering illegally can be diverted to controlled legal channels. This will be much more in the United States interest than the present situation.

The Mexican Government will be reluctant to see the United States undertake a unilateral program and may accept our principles for an agreement when it sees we are determined to do so. At any rate, it will be informed of our readiness to return to bilateral operation whenever it cares to accept these principles.

Some Mexican criticism of a unilateral United States program is inevitable. This would not be likely to affect our overall friendly relations and is a moderate price to pay for effective control over a potentially dangerous security situation on our southern border. Investigations are now under way to determine the feasibility of simplifying our entry procedure for all Mexican visitors in such a way as to create a favorable impression in Mexico and eliminate a large proportion of any adverse reaction.3

Walter B. Smith
  1. Drafted by Mr. Belton.
  2. This accord was the revised Migratory Labor Agreement which was negotiated on June 12, 1952, to replace the 1951 bracero agreement with Mexico.
  3. In a memorandum to President Eisenhower dated Dec. 28, 1953, Secretary Dulles stated that no new agreement was likely before the expiration of the existing one, and that postponement of the expiration date seemed undesirable from the American point of view. However, in order to allow the Mexican Government one last opportunity to reach an agreement with the United States, the Secretary recommended deferring the operation of the unilateral recruitment program until Jan. 15. This would permit the Mexicans to realize that the United States was serious in its proposals and allow them time to accelerate negotiations with us “before we are under way alone.” (811.06(M)/12–2853)