1965 October 3

LBJ Signs Immigration Reform Law in Ceremony at the Statue of Liberty


President Lyndon B. Johnson on this day signed the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which abolished the notorious “national origins” quota system of the 1924 Immigration Act (May 26, 1924). The national origins quota in the earlier law discriminated against Eastern and Southern Europeans. In an important symbolic gesture, President Johnson signed the bill at a ceremony at the Statue of Liberty (see the video below).

Much of the credit for the new law belongs to President John F. Kennedy, who had urged reform of existing law while a senator on August 6, 1960; as president, he again called for a new immigration law, on June 11, 1963, and sent a reform bill to Congress on July 23, 1963. He also authored a report that was posthumously published as a book, A Nation of Immigrants. The tolerant attitude toward immigrants in the 1960s contrasted sharply with the anti-immigrant fervor among many Americans today.

LBJ: [The law is] “one of the most important acts of this Congress and of this administration. For it does repair a very deep and painful flaw in the fabric of American justice. It corrects a cruel and enduring wrong in the conduct of the American Nation.”

See LBJ sign the historic law: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQNP5XKMNls

Read John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants (1964)

Learn more: Roger Daniels, Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882 (2004)

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