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House Passes Immigration Bill Eliminating National Origins Quotas


The House of Representatives today voted approval of the bill to liberalize the immigration law by terminating the national origins quota system, and providing for entry of immigrants to the United States without discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed or national origin.

The bill was recommended by the House Immigration subcommittee after three years of consideration and debate. It conforms generally to reforms sought by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. The bill would pool unused quotas and do away entirely with the quota system within a period of three years. The bill now goes to the Senate, where early and favorable action is anticipated.

Earlier today, President Johnson, at a press conference here, announced his full backing of the bill, and followed up with a letter to Congress, urging passage of the measure without crippling amendments. Voicing confidence that the bill would pass, the President said the new law would improve relations with other countries and be a source of satisfaction to elements in America that have long sought an equitable immigration policy.

In his letter on the subject, addressed to House Speaker John McCormack, the President denounced the discriminatory national origins quota, which has been in effect since 1924, and declared, “there is no piece of legislation before the Congress that, in terms of decency and equity, is more demanding of passage than the immigration bill.”


Rep. Leonard Farbstein, New York Democrat, today told the House, which had started debate on the measure yesterday, that elimination of the national origins quota system would come too late for many Jews, “buried in mass graves at Auschwitz, Dachau, and Bergen-Belsen,” who were refused U.S. visas because quotas were filled. He pointed out that, “in a last desperate effort to escape the Nazi terror, they made one futile trip to the American Consulate, only to be told that the quota was filled.”

He mourned the fact that an immigration reform law was net adopted before World War II. But the new law, he said, may allow the 6,000,000 Jews murdered in Europe because they had no avenue of escape to “rest easier in their graves” because America may now provide an easier haven to refugees. He urged revision of the biased quota system in keeping with the faith the Jewish martyrs of the Hitler era had displayed.

Rep. Seymour Halpern, New York Republican, in commenting on the bill in terms similar to those of Rep. Farbstein, said that hundreds of thousands of European Jews could have been saved during the Nazi tyranny had the national origins quota system not been in existence.


House debate on the bill opened yesterday with a statement by Rep. Emanuel Celler, New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who has fought the quota system for the past 41 years.

“The theory of national origins quota is antiquated, unworkable and unscientific,” Mr. Celler said. “It was devised after World War I in an atmosphere of fear, almost of Hysteria.”

Rep. Celler’s Judiciary subcommittee on immigration has been studying the proposed reforms for almost two years and held 39 public hearings to consider all possible sides. President Johnson and each of his three predecessors have urged that the immigration changes be made.

In addition to doing away with the quota system, the bill establishes an annual limit of 170,000 for all immigrants coming into the country, and sets up new preferences for them. The bill, however, does not alter basic criteria for admission, including standards for mental and physical health and the nation’s security.

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