Letter to Secretary Ribicoff Requesting Him To Undertake Direction
of Cuban Refugee Activities.
January 27, 1961

     Dear Mr. Secretary:
     I want you to undertake responsibility, effective February 1, for directing the Cuban refugee activities now being conducted by the Executive branch of the Federal government, and to make an on-the-scene investigation of the problem within the next week as my personal representative.
     I want you to make concrete my concern and sympathy for those who have been forced from their homes in Cuba, and to assure them that we shall seek to expedite their voluntary return as soon as conditions there facilitate that. I believe that the present program can best be strengthened by directly bringing to bear your personal leadership and the vast welfare, health, and other skills of your Department. I am anxious that you make use of private services available for the refugees to the greatest extent possible.
     Both here at home and abroad, I want to re-emphasize most strongly the tradition of the United States as a humanitarian sanctuary, and the many times it has extended its hand and material help to those who are "exiles for conscience's sake." In the presently troubled world, we cannot be a peacemaker if we are not also the protector of those individuals as well as nations who cast with us their personal liberty and hopes for the future.
     Immediate action should be taken to assure no interruption in present services for the refugees. I also want your consideration of the use of surplus U.S. foods if needed for them, and possible utilization of the many qualified physicians and other professionally or technically qualified refugees.
     In undertaking the task given here, you should coordinate activities in this field with the Secretaries of State, Defense, Labor, and Agriculture, and with the heads of other relevant agencies. Under previous arrangements, funds have already been made available to meet such immediate expenditure as will be requested by you of the Department of State, Department of Defense, or other appropriate agency whose participation in this program of emergency assistance to Cuban refugees you may find essential.
        Sincerely,

 JOHN F. KENNEDY