Truman Vetoes Mccarran Bill; Asks Study of Immigration Policy
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Truman Vetoes Mccarran Bill; Asks Study of Immigration Policy

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President Truman today vetoed the McCarran-Walter Immigration Bill which Jewish and liberal organizations had bitterly fought as racist and discriminatory. The measure must receive a two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress if the veto is to be overridden, and a sharp battle is expected in the Senate to uphold the President’s veto.

In a message to the House of Representatives, accompanying the veto, he described provisions of the bill as “worse than the infamous Alien and Sedition Act of 1798,” and said “such powers are inconsistent with our democratic ideals.” He said “to make refugees from oppression forever deportable on such technical grounds is shabby treatment indeed.”

The President’s message spoke of “the great popular interest which this bill has created” and urged a re-examination by Congress “of this entire matter.” He suggested “the creation of a representative commission of outstanding Americans to examine the basic assumptions of our immigration policy, the quota system and all that goes with it, the effect of our present immigration and nationality laws, their administration, and the ways in which they can be brought into line with our national ideals and our foreign policy.”


Pending creation of such a commission, the President requested enactment of legislation to remove racial barriers now in effect against nationals of Asiatic countries. He also urged positive action on legislation which he recommended three months ago to admit 300,000 additional immigrants. outside the regular quotas, in the next three years.

Pointing out that the McCarran-Walter measure would continue “practically without change” the national origins quota system, Mr. Truman declared that “the idea behind this discriminatory policy was, to put it baldly, that Americans with English or Irish names were better people and better citizens than Americans” of other backgrounds. “Such a concept is utterly unworthy of our traditions and our ideals. It violates the great political doctrine of the Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal.’ It denies the humanitarian creed inscribed beneath the Statue of Liberty proclaiming to all nations, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ “

The President attacked the bill as a repudiation of “our basic concepts, our belief in the brotherhood of man.” He insisted that the measure would substitute “totalitarian vengeance for democratic justice” by recognizing the findings of totalitarian courts. Finally, he told Congress that now is the time for the development of a “decent policy of immigration–a fitting instrument for our foreign policy and a true reflection of the ideals we stand for at home and abroad.”


The President’s veto of the McCarran-Walter bill was lauded today in a joint statement issued by three Democratic Senators who pledged that they would fight to sustain the veto and persist in efforts for a liberalized revision of immigration laws. The Senators were Herbert H. Lehman, of New York, Hubert H. Humphrey, of Minnesota, and William Benton, of Connecticut, who led the Congressional opposition against the measure.

Their joint statement said that “President Truman has kept faith with the fundamental traditions of America” in vetoing the McCarran-Walter bill. “It was, we know, a hard decision. There are in this bill a few attractive provisions, by no means as good as they should be, but better than existing law. But these few provisions are imbedded in a bill which is essentially anti-alien, anti-immigration, and, in our judgment, basically anti-American.”

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