Calvin Coolidge photo

Excerpts of the President's News Conference

November 23, 1923

The Cabinet meeting was very short this morning, and about all that we took up was immigration questions. I am very glad you spoke to me about that because I was asked yesterday, or rather I inquired of a lawyer that was here, who told me that people came to America on boats with passports, and when they got the passports thought, of course, that gave them the right of entry. I said that was a matter that ought to be remedied if it were so. I inquired of the State Department this morning, and they say every individual that gets a passport signs a statement that he or she understands that it does not in any way entitle them to entrance into any port of our country. The passport is merely a statement by the State Department that, so far as the State Department is concerned, they have no objection to the entrance of that person. It doesn't have any jurisdiction over the Labor Department, nor, of course, over our immigration laws. They do sign, in every case where a passport is granted, a statement that they understand that, and know the significance of it. It is explained to them as carefully as it can be. But many times people come with passports that have been issued in South Africa, and so on, London or Paris, and it isn't possible for all of these different clients to keep in touch with each other and know just what the quota may be for any specific country at any specific time. So that some of the countries of Europe, who have nationals that are spread all over the world and come back to Europe with their passports, and sail from there to here, are subject to that condition without any blame attaching to the different consuls that issue the passports.

An inquiry as to whether aliens will be admitted at New York in excess of national quotas, and whether any arrangements have been made for such purpose. No general arrangements about it. A prominent lawyer came to see me yesterday about a boatload, I think, of some seven hundred that wanted to come in. Some are quite distressing cases. I took the matter up with the Labor Department and they tell me that in a case of that kind they try to take care of all cases of distress—those that you might call worthy cases; but when they are able-bodied men or people that don't appeal in any way to the sympathy or charitable instincts, why they have to be returned.

Source: "The Talkative President: The Off-the-Record Press Conferences of Calvin Coolidge". eds. Howard H. Quint & Robert H. Ferrell. The University Massachusetts Press. 1964.

Calvin Coolidge, Excerpts of the President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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