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JFK, Immigration Restrictionist


As we remember Jack Kennedy on today’s anniversary, it’s worth noting that his views were completely different from his successors’ on not only national strength and tax policy, but also immigration. Here’s what he wrote in A Nation of Immigrants:

We no longer need settlers for virgin lands, and our economy is expanding more slowly than in the 19th and early 20th centuries. . . . [My proposals] will have little effect on the number of immigrants admitted. . . .The clash of opinion arises not over the number of immigrants to be admitted but over the test for admissions.

Or, as I put it in my own book on the subject, “modern America has outgrown mass immigration.” President Kennedy’s goal was to leave immigration at about the level it was during his administration (300,000 per year) but to move away from the national-origins quotas that he saw (rightly, I think) as inappropriate and internationally embarrassing.

NR’s editors are right in describing Kennedy as “a middling president at best,” but his take on immigration was head and shoulders above that of today’s Democrats — and too many Republicans.