26 Interfaith Groups, Robert Kennedy Urge U.S. Immigration Reform

The American Council of Voluntary Agencies for Foreign Services, representing more than 26 organizations of all faiths and nationalities, strongly supported liberalization of U.S. immigration law this weekend.

Bishop Edward E. Swanstrom, ACVA honorary chairman, and executive director of Catholic Relief Services, told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration: “Events of the past 12 years leave no doubt that we must effect major changes in our basic immigration law, so that we may have an immigration policy to support our best national interests.” He was accompanied by James P. Rice, United Hias Service executive director, and executives of other member agencies.

Rep. Michael A. Feighan, Ohio Democrat, who is chairman of the subcommittee, recently introduced a bill which maintains the national origins quota system but makes temporary provision for allocation of unused quota numbers. It also would change the definition of refugee eligibility and eliminate the Fair Share Law, under which refugees of all faiths are admitted to the United States from Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Bishop Swanstrom told the committee that no bill would be acceptable to his group unless the national origins quota system was eliminated.

After the hearing, the ACVA spokesman sent a telegram to Congressman Feighan and the subcommittee, repeating their opposition to the Feighan bill primarily because it did not eliminate the national origins quota system, and expressing concern about the effect it would have on refugee immigration. They urged the subcommittee to report favorably the Administration bill which was supported by the late President Kennedy, and recently endorsed by President Johnson.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy this weekend issued a statement strongly advocating the end of the national origins quota system as one that “causes our nation great harm both here and abroad” and declaring that the system “should be eradicated from our law.” His statement took the form of aletter to the editor of the New York Times.

The system, Mr. Kennedy held, “damages America in the eyes of the world, deprives us of able immigrants whose contributions we need, inflicts needless personal cruelty on large numbers of American citizens and residents–and it doesn’t work.” “The Administration’s pending immigration bill, “he affirmed, “seeks to change that system and establish a system that works in the national interest.”

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