The Acting Secretary of State to the Chargé in Panama ( Donnelly )
114. Urtel no. 208 of February 28. Reference Embassy’s request for statement as to treatment accorded to legally admitted foreigners in the United States.
While the Constitution of the United States does not grant political rights to aliens, those parts of the Constitution which protect individuals against unreasonably restrictive or discriminatory legislation benefit aliens as well as citizens. This is notably true of the due process clauses of the Constitution and of the “equal protection” clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. Certain forms of business activity, as, for example, public utilities, communication and shipping, and government employment generally, are, under existing federal and state legislation, usually denied to foreigners. There is a limited sphere within which state laws may, in the application of the states’ police power, restrict occupational activities of persons generally in matters involving the public health, safety, morals or general welfare. If tested in the courts, such laws, in order to be sustained as valid, must accord with provisions of the federal Constitution referred to above, and with the provisions of any applicable treaties of the United States.
For illustrative judicial decisions indicating the extent to which aliens in the United States have been upheld in the enjoyment of rights under the Constitution, as supplemented in some cases by the provisions of treaties, reference may be made to Hackworth’s Digest of International Law, volume III, pages 612 to 639.
You may at your discretion emphasize this Government’s concern that the provisions of the proposed Constitution of Panama shall not be made the basis for discriminatory treatment of American nationals in a manner which would be in contrast with the liberal principles applied, under the Constitution and treaties of the United States, in the treatment of aliens legally admitted to this country.