Kennedy Sends Proposals to Congress Liberalizing Immigration Law
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Kennedy Sends Proposals to Congress Liberalizing Immigration Law

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President Kennedy today made a sweeping move to liberalize the McCarran-Walter immigration act including the elimination of the national origin quota system and other forms of discrimination.

Mr. Kennedy sent proposals to both the Senate and House. They were accompanied by the President’s personal letter saying that enactment of the new legislation would “help eliminate discrimination between peoples and nations.”

He recommended that the national origins quota system, in effect since 1920, and which denied entry to many refugees from Hitler’s Europe, be eliminated within five years. He pointed out that 60,000 quota numbers were wasted annually because of a biased system in which northern European countries were favored.

Eastern Europe and Mediterranean areas were considered less desirable sources of immigration under the quota system which was perpetuated in the McCarran-Walter act. Under the proposed legislation, 20 per cent of quota numbers a year would be put in a “quota reserve pool” for redistribution. At the end of five years, the old structure would no longer exist.

The President stipulated that no single country would be permitted more than 10 per cent of quota numbers in any one year. He proposed the establishment of a new seven-member board on immigration matters. He asked authority for the White House to carry out the board’s recommendations to reserve up to 50 per cent of unallocated numbers for issuance to persons disadvantaged by change in the quota system, and up to 20 per cent to refugees in cases where sudden dislocation requires special treatment.


The President made other recommendations which went beyond revision of the quota system. Under these recommendations, immigration to the United States from Israel would be facilitated with the easing of quota restrictions. Many of the pooled quota numbers would be available to Israelis.

First call on the first 50 per cent of quota numbers would be given to persons whose admission, by virtue of exceptional skill, training or education, would be especially advantageous to the United States. First call on the next 30 per cent, plus any part of the first 50 per cent not issued to the skilled specialists, is given to unmarried sons and daughters of United States citizens, not eligible for non quota status, because they are over 21 years of age.

First call on the remaining 20 per cent, plus any part of the first 80 per cent not taken by the first two classes, is given to spouses and children of aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Any portion remaining is issued to other applicants, with percentage preferences to other relations of United States citizens and resident aliens, and then to certain classes of workers.

Within each class, visas will be issued on a first come, first served basis. These preference provisions, which under present law determine only relative priority between nationals of the same country, will new determine priority between nationals of different countries throughout the world.

In certain oversubscribed countries, like Israel, a re-registration of registrants would be taken to eliminate those who have died, emigrated elsewhere, or changed their minds. All who failed to re-register could be eliminated. Registration of those who previously declined visas would be terminated. The present annual quota for Israel is only 100. The redistribution of quotas would even in the first year benefit such countries as Israel, where a large backlog of visa applicants exists.


Algerian Jews would be able to find refuge in the United States. One section amends the Refugee Relief Act to allow the admission of refugees from North Africa

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