Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to the President 1



  • Mexican Migrant Labor Legislation.

The Mexican migrant labor bill,2 on which action was completed March 4 in Congress, has caused serious concern to the Mexican Government. This stems basically from Mexico’s belief that, in the absence of legislation, we will be compelled to reach agreement with her in order to gain effective control over the migrant labor movement. Our desire for the legislation originated from the need to act unilaterally if we could not reach an agreement with Mexico which would provide effective control. Although agreement now appears close, the authority in the legislation will be very useful for future contingencies.

The fact is that authority exists for admission of Mexican workers in the absence of agreement with Mexico, but without this new legislation, [Page 1360] there is no authority for expenditure of funds to control the movements and protect the interests of these workers.

Because the reasons in paragraph one have been recognized and emphasized in public discussion of the subject, the Mexican Government feels it would appear to be acting under duress if it signed an agreement shortly after the legislation becomes effective. It has asked that whatever possible be done to prevent the bill from becoming law.

During February when the legislation was passing through Congress, negotiations for an agreement with Mexico which began last October suddenly accelerated to the extent that conclusion of an agreement is now anticipated within a very few days, probably no later than March 10.3 In view of the Mexican sensitivity on signing an agreement after the legislation becomes effective, and because they have told us that this problem would be less acute if the agreement is signed before the legislation, the Department recommends that Presidential action be delayed until March 15.

Mexican sensibilities would be further assuaged by a brief Presidential statement at the time the legislation is signed, pointing out the beneficial effects for Mexican workers mentioned in paragraph two above. A draft statement for possible use in this regard will be forwarded in the near future.

The above information has been furnished to the Bureau of the Budget.

Walter B. Smith
  1. Drafted by Mr. Belton.
  2. This bill amended Title V of the Agricultural Act of 1949 to authorize the Secretary of Labor to recruit Mexican workers for U.S. employment in the absence of a U.S.-Mexican Treaty, as long as the United States had made “every practicable effort” to reach an agreement. It was approved on Mar. 4, 1954, as Public Law 309; for text, see 68 Stat. 28.
  3. A new Migratory Labor Agreement with Mexico was in fact signed on this date and was scheduled to remain in force until Dec. 31, 1955. On the question of wages it stipulated that “wage rates paid to the Mexican worker may not be less than the prevailing wages for domestic laborers performing the same activity in the same area of employment as determined by the Secretary of Labor.” Mexico had the right to request a review if it believed the prevailing wage rate for a specific area was incorrect. For the text of the agreement, see 5 UST 379.