150.01 Commuters/390

The Canadian Chargé ( Wrong ) to the Secretary of State

No. 256

Sir: I have the honour to state that I have been instructed by the Secretary of State for External Affairs to inform you that representations have been made to His Majesty’s Government in Canada concerning the serious effect upon Canadian communities along the Detroit River of the policies recently enforced by the immigration authorities of the United States against residents of Canada crossing to work in the United States.

His Majesty’s Government in Canada, of course, fully recognizes the right of the Government of the United States to adopt and enforce whatever immigration policy is considered necessary in the interests of that country. At the same time, no doubt is felt that the Government of the United States will agree that it would not be consistent with the spirit and principles which have directed the relations between the two countries to disturb, unless in case of urgent necessity, conditions which have been maintained and accepted through a long period. At many points along the international border, and notably in the Windsor-Detroit area intimate business and social relationships have [Page 895] developed, advantageous to both countries. These border communities are largely complementary to one another, not merely in an unusually free exchange of labour, but still more in the extent to which the commercial and social facilities on either side of the boundary have been available to residents on both sides. This close interrelation is the product of a long development during which mutual freedom of intercourse has been maintained. It is, of course, not possible to disturb one factor in the relationship without affecting other factors.

Before 1927, residents in the Canadian border communities who entered the United States daily for employment were admitted as visitors under the immigration laws. On April 1, 1927, the Department of Labor of the United States issued an Order, known as General Order No. 86,6 which required that these persons were in the future to be considered as “aliens of the immigrant class”. This order altered a practice long followed by both countries and still adhered to by the Government of Canada. It forced all Canadian residents who worked on the United States side of the boundary to qualify as immigrants to the United States. At that time in the Windsor area some 15,600 individuals were affected by the order.

The effects of this Order in suddenly restricting the old freedom of intercourse were mitigated through the good offices of Mr. Kellogg, who caused arrangements to be made to facilitate the process whereby those concerned could secure the status of immigrants to the United States. They were then able to continue to reside in Canada and to cross daily to their place of employment in the United States. The number of these so-called “border-crossers” or “commuters” has since then steadily declined. It is believed that by the end of 1927 the number had fallen to about 13,000, and that in 1928 and 1929 it was about 10,000. By January, 1930, the number was reduced to approximately 6,500; and on December 9th, 1930, the competent officer of the United States Bureau of Immigration at Detroit estimated the number then crossing the border daily to employment as 3,600.

Some years ago the number of “commuters” crossing from Canada to the United States was far larger than the number crossing from the United States to work in Canadian establishments. Now, largely as the result of the increasingly rigid enforcement of immigration regulations by the United States authorities, in volume and significance the entire daily movement from the United States to Canada approximately balances that from Canada to the United States. In spite, however, of unemployment difficulties comparable to those which have faced the United States, the Government of Canada have [Page 896] not departed in any way from the policy of permitting United States citizens to enter daily to work in Canadian establishments.

During the last few weeks particularly, notwithstanding the very large reduction in the number of “commuters”, the United States immigration authorities have undertaken a rigorous examination of all persons entering daily from Canada; and they have rejected a large number of persons who had qualified under General Order No. 86, amounting altogether to several hundreds, by applying to them highly technical interpretations of the immigration laws. Until this situation arose, it was believed by the Government of Canada that the arrangements arrived at in 1927 would permit those who met the conditions set forth in General Order No. 86 to continue to live in Canada and work in the United States.

I have been instructed therefore, to request that the Government of the United States should give consideration to this matter, in the hope that a solution may be found which will continue in spirit and effect the arrangements reached in 4927.

I have [etc.]

H. Wrong