Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 - stock photo
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Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965

President Johnson speaking to assembled crowd before signing the Immigration Act. Liberty Island, NYC, October 3, 1965. Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, abolished the national origins quota system that was American immigration policy since the 1920s, replacing it with a preference system that focused on immigrants' skills and family relationships with citizens or U.S. residents. The 1965 act marked a radical break from the immigration policies of the past. The law as it stood then excluded Asians and Africans and preferred northern and western Europeans over southern and eastern ones. At the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s the law was seen as an embarrassment by, among others, President Kennedy, who called the then-quota-system "nearly intolerable". After Kennedy's assassination, President Johnson signed the legislation into law, saying "This system violates the basic principle of American democracy, the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man. It has been un-American in the highest sense, because it has been untrue to the faith that brought thousands to these shores even before we were a country". Photographed by Yoichi Okamoto October 3, 1965.

Science Source / LBJ Library/Yoichi Okamoto

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