2 Replies Latest reply on Sep 3, 2019 10:36 AM by Bill Camarda

    Researching Pre-Examination Procedure (1935-1958) used to legalize migrants


      For a possible Master’s Thesis, I’d be grateful for any guidance to explore the Pre-Examination Procedure that was used to legalize some 58,000 migrants in America from 1935-1958. (I haven’t posed questions here before, so if there’s a better way for me to do this, please let me know.)

      In Impossible Subjects, Mae Ngai says the Pre-Examination Procedure “was extended to illegal immigrants to facilitate their legalization. A formal agreement between the U.S. Department of State and Immigration Service and their Canadian counterparts detailed procedures whereby an immigrant in the United States without a visa could be “pre-examined” for legal admission, leave the country as a “voluntary departure,” proceed to the nearest American consul in Canada, obtain a visa for permanent residence, and reenter the United States formally as a legal admission.” She argues it was one of several ways undocumented Italian, Polish, and other European migrants could be legalized – techniques largely denied to non-Europeans. The Tenement Museum describes the experience of one undocumented Italian immigrant, Rosaria Baldizzi, who used this procedure.


      Others have claimed that it was used most notably to safeguard German refugees from Hitler who had arrived on visitor visas because permanent visas were unavailable to them, and then overstayed those visas. (Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Roger Waldinger, Strangeness at the Gates: The Peculiar Politics of American Immigration, International Migration Review, Volume 40 Number 3 (Fall 2006): 719-7).


      I’m trying to get more clarity about exactly who was helped, and if the patterns changed over time, especially when the INS moved from Frances Perkins’ progressive Department of Labor to the more restrictive Department of State in 1940. I’m also trying to understand the political dynamics surrounding the Pre-Examination Procedure, which earned the enmity of some immigration restrictionists.




      Are there records of who re-entered through Canada using this Pre-Examination Procedure? Can these re-entries be distinguished from other possibly unrelated re-entries? (I’m aware of a database, U.S., Records of Aliens Pre-Examined in Canada, 1904-1954, digitized by Ancestry.com. However, it seems to contain far more than 58,000 names and may not contain some names (e.g., Baldizzi) who definitely did undergo the procedure. So it’s not clear to me that it’s the right database or that I understand its contents.)


      Can anyone suggest other specific sources for understanding the history and evolution of the Pre-Examination Procedure? For example, sources of or from:

      • Pre-1940 Department of Labor
      • 1940-1958 State Department
      • “Voluntary departures” to Canada that might be linked to rapid returns
      • Local border crossings such as Rouses Point, NY
      • Consular offices in Canada that issued visas for those who had been pre-examined
      • Legislative debates about the issue beyond the Congressional Record (e.g., Feingold’s The Politics of Rescue (p. 17) mentions resistance to funding the procedure by the House Appropriations Subcommittee in the 76th Congress). 


      Again, thanks in advance for any guidance you can offer. It’s deeply appreciated.


      Bill Camarda