1963 July 23

President Kennedy Sends Congress Immigration Reform Proposal


President John F. Kennedy on this day sent to Congress a bill to reform American immigration law, following through on his earlier promise on June 11, 1963. Most importantly, he called for the elimination of the discriminatory “national origins” quota system of the 1924 Immigration Act (enacted May 26, 1924). As a senator in 1959, Kennedy wrote A Nation of Immigrants for the Anti-Defamation League, and it appeared as a book in 1964, after his death.

Kennedy’s initiative culminated in the 1965 Immigration Act, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law on October 3, 1965.

President Kennedy: “The most urgent and fundamental reform I am recommending relates to the national origins system of selecting immigrants. Since 1924 it has been used to determine the number of quota immigrants permitted to enter the United States each year. Accordingly, although the legislation I am transmitting deals with many problems which require remedial action, it concentrates attention primarily upon revision of our quota immigration system. The enactment of this legislation will not resolve all of our important problems in the field of immigration law. It will, however, provide a sound basis upon which we can build in developing an immigration law that serves the national interest and reflects in every detail the principles of equality and human dignity to which our nation subscribes.”

Read Kennedy’s letter to congressional leaders:

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

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