Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Special Message to the Congress on Immigration

March 17, 1960

To the Congress of the United States:

I again urge the liberalization of some of our existing restrictions upon immigration.

The strength of this nation may be measured in many ways--military might, industrial productivity, scientific contributions, its system of justice, its freedom from autocracy, the fertility of its land and the prowess of its people. Yet no analytical study can so dramatically demonstrate its position in the world as the simple truth that here, more than any other place, hundreds of thousands of people each year seek to enter and establish their homes and raise their children.

To the extent possible, without dislocating the lives of those already living here, this flow of immigration to this country must be encouraged. These persons who seek entry to this country seek more than a share in our material prosperity. The contributions of successive waves of immigrants show that they do not bring their families to a strange land and learn a new language and a new way of life simply to indulge themselves with comforts. Their real concern is with their children, and as a result those who have struggled for the right of American citizenship have, in countless ways, shown a deep appreciation of its responsibilities. The names of those who make important contributions in the fields of science, law, and almost every other field of endeavor indicate that there has been no period in which the immigrants to this country have not richly rewarded it for its liberality in receiving them.

In the world of today our immigration law badly needs revision.

Ideally, I believe that this could perhaps be accomplished best by leaving immigration policy subject to flexible standards. While I realize that such a departure from the past is unlikely now, a number of bills have already been introduced which contain the elements of such an idea. The time is ripe for their serious consideration so that the framework of a new pattern may begin to evolve.

For immediate action in this session I urge two major acts.

First, we should double the 154,000 quota immigrants that we are presently taking into our country.

Second, we should make special provision for the absorption of many thousands of persons who are refugees without a country as a result of political upheavals and their flight from persecution.

The first proposal would liberalize the quotas for every country and, to an important extent, moderate the features of existing law which operate unfairly in certain areas of the world. In this regard, I recommend the following steps:

1. The removal of the ceiling of 2,000 on quotas within the Asiatic-Pacific triangle;

2. The basing of the over-all limitation on immigration on the 1960 census as soon as it is available in place of that of 1920 which is the present base;

3. The annual acceptance of 1/6 of 1% of our total population;

4. Abandonment of the concept of race and ethnic classifications within our population, at least for the purposes of the increases in quotas I have recommended, by substituting as the base for computation the number of immigrants actually accepted from each area between 1924 and 1959. In other words the increase in the quota for Italy, for example, would not be based upon a percentage of a so-called Italian ethnic group within our country, but upon a percentage of actual immigration from Italy between 1924 and 1959; and

5. The unused quotas of under-subscribed countries should be distributed among over-subscribed countries. This distribution should be in proportion to the quotas of the over-subscribed countries.

My second major proposal is for authorization for the parole into this country of refugees from oppression. They are persons who have been forced to flee from their homes because of persecution or fear of persecution based upon race, religion or political opinions, or they are victims of world political upheaval or national calamity which makes it impossible for them to return to their former homes.

This year has been designated World Refugee Year. The United States and sixty-eight other nations have joined together in an attempt to seek permanent solutions for the problems of these peoples. Nations who in the past have granted entry to the victims of political or religious persecutions have never had cause to regret extending such asylum. These persons with their intellectual idealism and toughness will become worthwhile citizens and will keep this nation strong and respected as a contributor of thought and ideals.

I have asked the Attorney General to submit a draft of legislation to implement the recommendations I have made. The Administration stands ready to supply whatever information is necessary to permit appropriate action by the Congress during its present session. If, notwithstanding my specific recommendations, the Congress should enact other or different liberalizations of our immigration law that are constructive, I will be glad to approve them.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, Special Message to the Congress on Immigration Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235424

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