[Letter from G.S. Messersmith to Secretary of Agriculture, Claude R. Wickard, July 22, 1942]


Mexico, July 22, 1942

The Honorable Claude R. Wickard
Secretary of Agriculture
Washington, D.C.

My dear Secretary Wickard:

I am writing you immediately following our telephone conversation this morning in which Major Walker and Mr. Meeker joined. There is some background which I think may be helpful.

The draft agreement which was forwarded by Major Walker to Mr. Baldwin by the air mail yesterday morning represents the result of the conversations between Walker, Meeker, and McGurk of this Embassy with the three representatives of the Mexican Government. You will recall that after the last conversation which you and I had with Senor Padilla they immediately started to work and have been at it continuously. The draft agreement which has been sent to Mr. Baldwin I have gone over very carefully and I think it is in far better form than we could have possibly hoped for at the outset. I went over it three or four times yesterday and before we talked with you this morning, and it is my considered opinion that the agreement is in shape that we can accept it, so far as our Government is concerned, and that it is very satisfactory.

I think they have done a fine job and laid a sound basis, on the principle we had agreed upon while you were here.

I realize that there is one variation of fundamental importance: that we are primarily responsible for the recruiting and selection of the labor. Padilla had insisted strongly that the Mexicans do this. When we came down to it we found that under the Mexican Constitution and law they could not do it. Of this there is no doubt. Padilla did not realize this when he spoke so strongly on this subject, and of course as it is a matter of the Constitution and law he cannot do anything about it.

As a matter of fact, if we are to get this labor it is better that we should do the recruiting and selecting. It is one point which has bothered me from the outset, because I think with the best will in the world, if our Mexican friends were going to do it we would find the recruiting and selection slow, influenced by local and sometimes political factors, and I fear that we would not get, with the best will on the part of the Mexican Government at the top, the kind of people whom we want and whom the Mexicans want to have go. This recruitment and selection, if it were done by the Mexicans, would be done by lower officials who would not necessarily be guided by the high principles of those with whom we have been talking. To insure the success of the plan from our point of view and that of the Mexicans, it is better that we do the recruitment, for in that way we will get the people we want and whom the Mexicans really want to have go.

Of course the Mexican Government will receive the applications from those who wish to go and collaborate with us in the various areas. But it is we who will make the selection.


If we wish to have this labor from Mexico and have the agreement go through right in actual performance, we shall have to carry through the selection.

The arrangement is one between Governments and the Mexican Government takes it for granted that it is the Farm Security Administration which will be responsible primarily under our Government for our end of it. This is essential for the carrying through of the agreement. It may be necessary for the Farm Security Administration to have the collaboration of the Employment Bureau at home to carry through the actual recruiting and selection here. It is for this reason that I suggested to you that when the Mexicans and you have agreed to these terms we have sent you, the President give his approval and indicate to the other agencies of our Government that they are either to keep their hands off or to collaborate with you and the Farm Security Administration in such ways as are necessary to meet the end desired. We shall never get anywhere in practice if your Department and the Farm Security Administration do not have the primary and in fact the sole responsibility for carrying this through. It will be necessary, in my opinion, for the President to say categorically to other agencies such as the Employment Bureau, Immigration, and Public Health, that they are to cooperate with you.

The number of people which the Employment Bureau would send down here to collaborate with the Farm Security Administration people in the actual recruitment would not be considerable, and the funds needed for this purpose in Mexico would be small. It is the Farm Security Administration, however, who should have the major responsibility and voice in these matters, and not the Employment Bureau, which in this case should act as the agent of the Farm Security Administration.

One of the things we wish to avoid is to have people turned back at the border. This means collaboration with the Immigration authorities and the Public Health Service. Although we want this labor, we must have our health standards protected, and they are pretty severe. As things go at home, the examination at the border would be made when the workers are admitted by the Immigration Service, by the Public Health Service. The Immigration Service has for its function the determining of the general admissibility of the worker. The Public Health Service is responsible for determining whether the worker meets our health requirements, as set forth in the law. So far as immigration is concerned, if these workers are selected by the Farm Security Administration with the collaboration of the Employment Bureau at points of recruitment in Mexico, then there should be no question about admission from the purely immigration point of view when the workers arrive at the border. Each would arrive with a contract entered into by the Farm Security Administration with him. This contract is the guarantee that the worker has been selected with due regard to his capacity to do the job desired. The immigration, therefore, at the frontier for the worker who has a contract should be a pure matter of form and the question of bonds, etc. should not arise. It would be ridiculous for us, when we want these laborers and have these arrangements with the Mexican Government and have a contract with the individual laborer by any agency of our Government, to have the Immigration insist on bonds or unnecessary red tape, and formalities.


So far as Public Health Service is concerned and the physical examination of the alien, I think we should do this at the recruiting points in Mexico, and to this end the Public Health Service should agree to designate anywhere from five to ten of its medical officers for the temporary period necessary for recruitment, and for service in Mexico with the Farm Security Administration and the Employment Bureau. These medical officers would make the same examination at the point of recruitment which would ordinarily be made at the border. We have ample precedent for this, as Immigration and Public Health well know, for we have for a number of years had our Public Health medical officers stationed in Europe and other places, in our Consulates, where they have made the medical examination required by our immigration laws which would otherwise have been made at the port of arrival in the United States.

If we carry through this arrangement, then when the workers arrive at the border who have been selected by the Farm Security and the Employment Bureau at the interior points in Mexico, there remains only the formality of the immigration authorities registering their entry and seeing that they have the appropriate contract with the Farm Security Administration. I feel confident, however, that to carry this through and to get the full cooperation of Immigration and not to have unnecessary obstacles put in the way, it will be necessary for you to see the President and explain the whole situation to him and ask him to give the necessary instructions to Immigration and Public Health to cooperate.

I am sure that if you will show this draft agreement to the President he will be pleased with it, for it meets, I am confident, his own ideas so thoroughly. He will understand that the objective is in the national interest and that other agencies of the Government cannot interpose difficulties but must collaborate if they are in a position to collaborate and if the Farm Security Administration wishes it, or otherwise keep hands off.

An arrangement of this kind can only be possible between the two Governments. This means that agencies of both Governments must collaborate for the main objective and not raise unnecessary difficulties.

The draft agreement which Major Walker has sent to Mr. Baldwin will be submitted to President Avila Camacho today. If he agrees to it, we will be able to let you know on Thursday morning, July 23rd. Then there remains only your agreement. If you are in agreement, then I think it would be advisable to get the President's blessing for the whole project, which in a preliminary way it already has, as he has made available this amount from the emergency fund for the Farm Security Administration.

When there is this agreement between the Mexicans and you on this draft, then it should be taken up with the State Department, which should be asked to instruct me to make the arrangement effective through an exchange of notes with the Mexican Government, by me and the Foreign Office here. This exchange of notes would be a very simple one and presents no difficulties.

Again I wish to say that I have studied this agreement very carefully and I do not see how we could improve on it. I think you will be pleased with it also. Whatever internal arrangements we have to make, to make it effective from

our end, we will have to carry through at home and we must not, as you will readily understand, complicate the situation by bringing up too many problems with the Mexicans. This would indefinitely complicate and delay the arrangement. The agreement as submitted covers all the details which have to be arranged between the two Governments.

It was fine to hear your voice this morning and I hope the trip home on the train was not too difficult. Please do not hesitate to call me on the 'phone if there is any detail or phase of the matter which you wish to have clarified.


With every good wish, believe me
Cordially and faithfully yours,