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Eisenhower Asks Congress to Revise New Immigration Law

President Eisenhower, in his State of the Union address, today asked Congress to “review” the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act “and to enact a statute that will at one and the same time guard our legitimate national interests and be faithful to our basic ideas of freedom and fairness to all.”

“It is a manifest right of car government to limit the number of immigrants our nation can absorb,” the President said. “It is also a manifest right of cur government to set reasonable requirements on the character and the numbers of the people who come to share our land and our freedom. It is well for us, however, to remind ourselves occasionally of an equally manifest fact: we are one and all–immigrants or sons and daughters of immigrants.

“Existing legislation contains injustices. It does, in fact, discriminate. I am informed by members of the Congress that it was realized, at the time of its enactment, that future study of the basis of determining quotas would be necessary. I am therefore, requesting the Congress to review this legislation and to exact a statute that will at one and the same time guard our legitimate national interests and be faithful to cur basic ideas of freedom and fairness to all.”


President Eisenhower also emphasized that vigilant guarding of civil rights “is a sacred obligation” of every American citizen. “To be true to one’s freedom.” be said, “is–in essence–to honor and respect the freedom of all others. A cardinal ideal is this heritage we cherish is the equality of rights of all citizens of every race and color and creed.”

The President did not ask for compulsory Federal civil rights legislation, outlining instead a plan for “friendly conferences” to seek voluntary compliance with civil rights ideas. He pledged, however, to use the authority existing in the Office of the President to end segregation in the District of Columbia, including the Federal Government and any segregation in the armed services. President Eisenhower said equality was a cardinal ideal of the American heritage and said “we know that discrimination against minorities persists despite our allegiance to this ideal.”

“Such discrimination,” he continued, “confined to no one section of the nation–is but outward testimony to the persistence of distrust and of fear in the hearts of men. This fact makes all the more vital the fighting of these wrongs by each individual, in every station of life, in his every deed. Much of the answer lies in the power of fact, fully publicized; of persuasion, honestly pressed; and of conscience, justly aroused. These are methods familiar to our way of life, tested and proven wise.”