Ed Koch, Immigration, and S. 461

Authored by Nicolás Cabrera

Handwritten memo and copy of S. 461

A memo sent to Arthur P. “Skip” Endres by Ed Koch.

Senate Bill 461 of the 94th Congress was introduced January 28, 1975, by Sen. Harrison A. Williams, Jr. [D-NJ] to grant “…a child adopted by a single United States citizen the same immigrant status as a child adopted by a United States citizen and his spouse pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act” (Library of Congress 1975).

This particular copy of the bill was found in box 3, folder 15 of the Arthur P. “Skip” Endres Collection in the Center for Migration Studies archives housed at St. John’s University, along with a memo from Ed Koch, then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York. The note, which is addressed to Skip, says, “I think the enclosed may interest you. Ed Koch.” According to the Center for Migration Studies, Endres was the counsel for the House Judicatory Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and International Law from 1973-1989 in Washington and was in frequent contact with members of congress. He worked with, and produced, primary sources of how migration and refugee law was made and how that process might be improved for future generations of immigrants, including S. 461 (Center for Migration Studies, n.d.).

This bill was introduced a decade after landmark immigration legislation that fundamentally changed the demographic composition of the United States. The “…Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished the quota system based on race. In 1965, family reunification became the major criterion for entrance, and this provision contributed to a change in immigration patterns which shifted immigration from developed European countries to underdeveloped countries. There was no limit on visas for immediate relatives of citizens, and a preference for relatives of resident aliens increased the admission of marital partners, children, and parents” (Ciment 2001, 349).

Koch served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 to 1977 and as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989 (Soffer 2010). As a liberal Democrat, he supported immigrants, so it is not surprising that he would pass along a copy of S. 461 to Endres with his note. As he wrote in The Washington Post in 1987, “No matter where you are in the city, you can learn a lot about America on the sidewalks of New York. One of the best things to do here is just walk around and look at the people: No other city in the world has a population as heterogeneous. Of the rising tide of immigrants to the United States each year, 16 percent settle in the five boroughs of New York, and more than a quarter of New Yorkers now are foreign-born. This city becomes home to immigrants from 160 different countries, and 121 languages are spoken here” (Koch 1987).­

Although it never made it out of committee, S. 461 can be seen through the lens of St. John’s Vincentian core values because it shows love, respect, and opportunity for the marginalized. The proposed legislation sought to change an important part of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 by recognizing that families come in different shapes and sizes by letting an unmarried U.S. citizen adopt an alien child the same way a married couple would. This would have been beneficial for both parties, since not every parent wants to or can get married, and, not every child can wait until a couple wants to adopt.


Center for Migration Studies. n.d. “CMS 105: Arthur P. (“Skip”) Endres Papers, 1960-1980s.” CMS Archives. Accessed March 15, 2018. http://cmsny.org/archives/cms_105.

Ciment, James, ed. 2001. Encyclopedia of American Immigration. 4 vols. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference.

Koch, Edward I. 1987. “Ed Koch: The Ultimate Insider’s View.” The Washington Post, April 26: E1.

Library of Congress. 1975. “S.461 – A bill to grant an alien child adopted by an unmarried United States citizen the same immigrant status as an alien child adopted by a U.S. citizen and his spouse.” Congress.gov. January 28. Accessed March 15, 2018. https://www.congress.gov/bill/94th-congress/senate-bill/461/committees?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22S.+461%22%5D%7D&r=10.

Soffer, Jonathan M. 2010. Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City. New York: Columbia University Press.