A change is needed in our laws dealing with immigration. Four Presidents have called attention to serious defects in this legislation. Action is long overdue.
I am therefore submitting, at the outset of this Congress, a bill designed to correct the deficiencies. I urge that it be accorded priority consideration.
The principal reform called for is the elimination of the national origins quota system. That system is incompatible with our basic American tradition.
Over the years the ancestors of all of us-some 42 million human beings--have migrated to these shores. The fundamental, longtime American attitude has been to ask not where a person comes from but what are his personal qualities. On this basis men and women migrated from every quarter of the globe. By their hard work and their enormously varied talents they hewed a great nation out of a wilderness. By their dedication to liberty and equality, they created a society reflecting man's most cherished ideals.
Long ago the poet Walt Whitman spoke our pride: "These States are the amplest poem." We are not merely a nation but a "Nation of Nations."
Violation of this tradition by the national origins quota system does incalculable harm. The procedures imply that men and women from some countries are, just because of where they come from, more desirable citizens than others. We have no right to disparage the ancestors of millions of our fellow Americans in this way. Relationships with a number of countries, and hence the success of our foreign policy, is needlessly impeded by this proposition.
The quota system has other grave defects. Too often it arbitrarily denies us immigrants who have outstanding and sorely needed talents and skills. I do not believe this is either good government or good sense.