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Celler Assails ‘unwarranted Interpretation’ of New Entry Law

September 17, 1952
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Chairman Emanuel Celler of the House Judiciary Committee today wrote Secretary of State Dean Acheson that the Department’s most recent explanation of its visa policy, which includes the specific identification of Jews as such, is “an unwarranted interpretation” of the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act.

Rep. Celler referred to a letter from Acting Assistant Secretary of State Ben. H. Brown, Jr., to Rep. Frances Bolton. This State Department letter said that each alien shall “be required to state his ethnic classification” in accordance with the McCarran-Walter Act.

The Judiciary chairman told Mr. Acheson that he was “disturbed” because the McCarran-Walter law was construed by the Visa Division as demanding the labelling of Jews while no similar requirement is made of other religious faiths. He said he could not understand “why those of the Jewish faith were singled out for such special treatment.”

Aliens who fail to provide an “ethnic classification” which satisfies consular authorities “may be arbitrarily denied visas under the new act,” Rep. Celler said. He pointed out that “the penalty for not telling the truth is denial of a visa, yet no definition is furnished as to what constitutes the various ‘ethnic classifications.’ I believe it is incumbent upon your department to submit to the applicant terms which constitute the various ‘ethnic classifications,’ but under no condition should those terms include the fact of one’s religion.


“It was never stated in any of the discussions of the Judiciary Committee of the House, where all immigration bills originate, nor on the floor of the House, that an application for a visa should include a statement of religion. I have personally participated in discussions on immigration statutes for 30 years and never has anyone voiced a statement that an applicant answering the question of his ‘ethnic classification’ must state the fact that he is Jewish,” Mr. Celler declared.

“It would be most unfortunate if by any stretch of the imagination the regulations would require that the applicants must state their religious affiliation, be they Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, or Moslem, in order to satisfy the requirement presently in the law asking for ‘race and ethnic classification.’ The regulations accompanying the application should specifically state that no intention of asking anyone to name his religion is implied and that ‘ethnic classification’ does not refer to the Jewish faith, the Catholic faith, the Moslem faith, the Protestant faith, or any other religious faith. There should be no equivocation or uncertainty as to the explanation of these terms.”

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