Anti-defamation League Takes Issue with Visa Department
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Anti-defamation League Takes Issue with Visa Department

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The B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League has been unable to find any public record of “racial” sub-classification requirements which visa chief Herve J. L’Heureux said are “deemed necessary to be reflected in visa statistics.” This was revealed in a reply by Herman Edelsberg, Washington A. D. L. director, to a letter from Mr. L’Heureux.

The L’Heureux letter said that for “statistical purposes” the descendants of an early Teutonic tribe were classified separately because their “racial strain is characteristic of the inhabitants of Northern and Western Europe.” He added that “to classify the people of Southern and Eastern Europe as ‘white’ would be of no practical value from a statistical point of view.” He also indicated that Jews had to be identified as such on visa applications because the listing of the major races “would ignore the various national, geographical and ethnological origin and characteristics deemed necessary to be reflected in visa statistics.”

Replying to Mr. L’Heureux, Mr. Edelsberg said that the Anti-Defamation League has studied “with interest” his letter concerning racial classification information required from applicants for visas and appreciates his assurance that no racial discrimination is intended.


“We have been unable to find any public record of the ‘racial sub-classifications’ which you stated are ‘deemed necessary to be reflected in visa statistics’.” Mr. Edelsberg pointed out. “Where are they available? We would appreciate also being advised which agencies of the government find such statistical data necessary. I must confess that I am aware of no statute regulation or policy of our Government which makes such data necessary or even material.

“Quite to the contrary, Government regulations and policies, as I understand them, frown upon such questionnaires. Not only are they un-scientific but they are widely regarded as potentially discriminatory. As you know many state laws specifically outlaw requests for such data in employment applications. Leading educational institutions have voluntarily dropped such requests in line with the recommendation of the President’s Committee on Higher Education. All the federal police agencies have barred the use of ‘Jewish’ or ‘Hebrew’ in identifying suspects or fugitives.

“We construe your letter to mean that the answer ‘Jewish’ or ‘Hebrew’ would be responsive to the question of race. In our view, this practice further emphasizes the inherent invalidity of the question. If it were proper to determine whether an applicant is a Jew, he should be asked his religion of his ancestors. Of course, I cannot see how such inquiries could be material to the execution of our immigration laws.

“We hope most earnestly that the Department will re-examine its practice in this respect. We hope you will agree with us that the abstract and theoretical statistical considerations are outweighed by the potentially discriminatory character of the question and its mischievous effect on the strength of our diplomacy.” Mr. Edelsberg’s communication concluded.

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