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The Hard Truth About Immigration

The Hard Truth About Immigration

“This bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill,” President Lyndon B. Johnson said as he put his signature on the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, at the base of the Statue of Liberty. “It does not affect the lives of millions.” All that the bill would do, he explained, was repair the flawed criteria for deciding who could enter the country. “This bill says simply that from this day forth those wishing to immigrate to America shall be admitted on the basis of their skills and their close relationship to those already here.” Edward Kennedy, the 33-year-old senator who had shepherded the bill through the Senate, went even further in promising that its effects would be modest. Some opponents argued that the bill would lead to a large increase in immigration, but those claims were false, Kennedy said. They were “highly emotional, irrational, and with little foundation in fact,” he announced in a Senate hearing, and “out of line with the obligations of responsible citizenship.” Emanuel Celler, the bill’s champion …