John F. Kennedy on Immigration
Jack was not a liberal and did not seek that label. Congressman Kennedy repeatedly favored fiscal conservatism and often expressed wariness about big government.
Initially, they had to save up money for passage. Then they had to say goodbye to cherished relatives and friends, whom they could never expect to see again. Before they even reached the ports of embarkation, they were subject to illness, accidents, storm and snow, even to attacks by outlaws.
After arriving at the ports, they often had to wait days, weeks, sometimes months, while they bargained with captains or agents for passage.
Most Italians were peasants from the south. They came because of neither religious persecution nor political repression, but simply in search of a brighter future. Population in Italy was straining the limits of the country's resources and more and more people had to eke out a living from small plots of land, held in many instances by oppressive landlords.
Untrained in special skills and unfamiliar with the language, they had to rely on unskilled labor jobs to earn a living. Italians thus filled the gap left by earlier immigrant groups who had now moved up the economic ladder.
Perhaps our brightest hope for the future lies in the lessons of the past. As each new wave of immigration has reached America it has been faced with problems, not only the problems that come with making new homes and new jobs, but, more important, the problems of getting along with people of different backgrounds and habits.
Somehow, the difficult adjustments are made and people get down to the tasks of earning a living, raising a family, living with their neighbors, and, in the process, building a nation.
There was the basic ambiguity which older Americans have often shown toward newcomers. In 1797 a member of Congress argued that, while a liberal immigration policy was fine when the country was new and unsettled, now that America had reached its maturity and was fully populated, immigration should stop--an argument which has been repeated at regular intervals throughout American history.
But emotions of xenophobia--hatred of foreigners--and of nativism--the policy of keeping America "pure" (that is, of preferring old immigrants to new)--continued to thrive.
In the 1850's nativism became an open political movement. Still it remains a remarkable fact that, except for the Oriental Exclusion Act, there was no governmental response till after the First World War.
The famous words of Emma Lazarus on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty read: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Until 1921 this was an accurate picture of our society. Under present law it would be appropriate to add: "as long as they come from Northern Europe, are not too tired or too poor or slightly ill, never stole a loaf of bread, never joined any questionable organization, and can document their activities for the past 2 years."
Furthermore, the national origins quota system has strong overtones of an indefensible racial preference. It is strongly weighted toward so-called Anglo-Saxons.
Source: Senate press release, "Naturalization Laws" (APP) , Aug 6, 1960
|Other past presidents on Immigration:||John F. Kennedy on other issues:|
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Past Vice Presidents:
Natural Law Party