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U.S. Policy During WWII: State Department Memorandum Outlines Ways to Obstruct Granting of U.S. Visas

(June 26, 1940)

Memo from Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long, to State Department Officials:

A-B - Mr. Berle
PA/D Mr. Dunn

Attached is a memorandum from Mr. Warren. I discussed the matter with him on the basis of this memorandum. There are two possibilities and I will discuss each category briefly.


Their entry into the United States can be made to depend upon prior authorization by the Department. This would mean that the consuls would be divested of discretion and that all requests for nonimmigrant visas (temporary visitor and transit visas) be passed upon here. It is quite feasible and can be done instantly. It will permit the Department to effectively control the immigration of persons in this category and private instructions can be given the Visa Division as to nationalities which should not be admitted as well as to individuals who are to be excluded.

This must be done for universal application and could not be done as regards Germany, for instance, or Russia, for instance, or any other one government because it would first, invite retaliation and second, would probably be a violation of some of our treaty arrangements. The retaliation clause is in connection with Germany because it could mean the closing of our offices in almost all of Europe.


We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants into the United States. We could do this by simply advising our consuls, to put every obstacle in the way and to require additional evidence and to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas. However, this could only be temporary. In order to make it more definite It would have to be done by suspension of the rules under the law by the issuance of a proclamation of emergency--which I take it we are not yet ready to proclaim.

Summing Up

We can effectively control non-immigrants by prohibiting the issuance of visas unless the consent of the Department to obtained in advance for universal application.

We can temporarily prevent the number of immigrants from certain localities such as Cuba, Mexico and other places of origin of German intending immigrants by simply raising administrative obstacles.

The Department will be prepared to take these two steps immediately upon the decision but emphasis must be placed on the fact that discrimination must not be practiced and with the additional thought that in case a suspension of the regulations should be proclaimed under the need of an emergency, it would be universally applicable and would affect refugees from England.

The Canadian situation and travel across that border we can handle through an exception to the general rule and so advise our consuls in Canada.

Sources: PBS