John F. Kennedy Announces Plans for Improved Immigration Laws, June 11, 1963

Authored by Cheryl Fruchthandler

President Kennedy is surrounded by delegates of the Third Symposium of the American Committee on Italian Migration at a colonnade near the Rose Garden June 11, 1963, after announcing plans on improved immigration laws.

In June of 1963, a lifetime’s work of President John F. Kennedy finally came to fulfillment, as a new proposal for immigration would be presented in front of Congress. Before becoming president, Kennedy had persevered as a Massachusetts State Senator to widen the quota of immigrants allowed into the United States by replacing the old quota granting entry into America. Among Kennedy’s seven proposals introduced in 1959 to liberalize immigration was a unique proposal to make it easier for future immigrants to assimilate into the United States.1 Kennedy was an advocate for change in the restrictive immigrating policy of our nation. He sharply criticized the system and called upon Congress to allow additional immigrants in each year without regard to their race or nationality.

In Kennedy’s remarks to the delegates of the American Committee on Italian Migration (ACIM), an organization dedicated to promoting fair immigration legislation to Italian immigrants, the President promises to “correct the inequities” in the current immigration laws.3 Kennedy assures the people of his mission to right the unequal distribution of quotas in Europe and congratulates them on their dedicated efforts to society. The immigration laws as they stood favored certain countries and specific types of citizens. The famous words of Emma Lazarus at the foot of the Statue of Liberty stress that this country would take in the masses to breathe free and not to favor only the healthy, well-connected, and documented-proven immigrants.4

Through John F. Kennedy’s thorough revision of immigration legislation in the early 1960’s under the Walter-McCarran Act, more Italian immigrants were allowed into the United States than any other prior time period.5 Due to Kennedy’s influence on immigration policy, the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965 passed, radically changing immigration in the United States. The law replaced the quotas with preferences based on family relationships; immigrants with family already established in America. The new law allowed for a dramatic increase in immigration and resulted in a general, liberal shift in direction for the Democratic Party.6 Unfortunately, the new legislation passed after JFK’s tragic death in 1963 but the increased immigration laws remain a vital part of Kennedy’s presidential legacy.

President Kennedy’s life work to change the immigration laws perfectly complements the Vincentian way of life. By allowing all those who wish to be a part of and contribute to American culture the right of entry into this country. The previous laws, Kennedy felt, were not just restrictive but that many of the restrictions were based on false or unjust policies. Kennedy wished to create a system that would be fair and with this he could serve his country with a clear conscience.7


  1. P. Trussel, “Kennedy Drafts Immigration Bill,” New York Times, February 20, 1959 accessed March 04, 2017 docview/114701352?accountid=14068
  2. John F. Kennedy, “A Nation Of Immigrants,” New York Times, August 04, 1963 accessed March 04, 2017 docview/116518785?accountid=14068
  3. John F. Kennedy, “Remarks to Delegates of the American Committee on Italian Migration,” The American Presidency Project, June 11, 1963 accessed March 04, 2017
  4. Kennedy, “A Nation of Immigrants”
  5. Joseph Velikonja, “Italian Immigrants in the United States in the Mid-Sixties,” The International Migration Review 1, no. 3 (1967): 27, accessed March 04, 2017 doi:10.2307/3002738.
  6. Steve Byas. “America and Immigration: A Mixed History with Lessons for Today.” The New American 32, no.5 (2016): accessed March 04, 2017 docview/1774760396?accountid=14068.
  7. Kennedy, “A Nation of Immigrants”



Byas, Steve. “America and Immigration: A Mixed History with Lessons for Today.” The New American 32, no. 5 (Mar 07, 2016): 31-38. Accessed March 04, 2017. docview/1774760396?accountid=14068.

Kennedy, John F. “A Nation of Immigrants.” The New York Times, (Aug 04, 1963): Accessed March 04, 2017.   docview/116518785/D7293134A72843F8PQ/2?accountid=14068

Kennedy, John F. “Remarks to Delegates of the American Committee on Italian Migration.” The American Presidency Project, (June 11, 1963): Accessed March 04, 2017.

Trussel, C.P. “Kennedy Drafts Immigration Bill.” New York Times (February 20, 1959): Accessed March 04, 2017.                           docview/114701352?accountid=14068

Velikonja, Joseph. “Italian Immigrants in the United States in the Mid-Sixties.” The International Migration Review 1, no. 3 (1967): 25-37. doi:10.2307/3002738.

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