Let’s Consider a Half-Century of Lies - The 1965 Immigration Act in perspective

By John Vinson
Volume 26, Number 1 (Fall 2015)
Issue theme: "The unmaking of America? The 1965 Immigration Act after 50 years."

Advocates of mass immigration are commonly dishonest, and indeed they lie quite a bit. Does this statement sound excessively harsh? Reviewing the record of the past 50 years will reveal most definitely that it isn’t.

Let’s begin with the infamous 1965 Immigration Act, the legislation that set our present tsunami of immigration into motion. One of its leading supporters was Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA). As mass immigration supporters commonly do today, he attacked the intelligence and character of those who opposed the bill, saying that they were “irrational” and bred “hate of our heritage.”1 Hype about “hate” is nothing new in immigrationist rhetoric. And what was the truth about the bill, according to Kennedy?

He informed Congress:

First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same....

Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset.... Contrary to the charges in some quarters, [the bill] will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area, or the most populated and deprived nations of Africa and Asia....

In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change sharply as the critics seem to think.... It will not upset the ethnic mix of society.... It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs.

Today it is uncanny to see how the 1965 act, and subsequent legislation following its lead, have brought about almost exactly what Kennedy said it would not, even down to the detail of an ongoing deluge of around one million legal immigrants a year.2

Was Kennedy lying about the bill? To be charitable, it’s possible that he wasn’t. Indeed, with a mental capacity often diminished by lust and alcohol, the senator possibly didn’t have a real grasp of what the legislation entailed. But if he didn’t know, it is certain that other supporters did. The intent of the legislation was clear to anyone who read it carefully. One who did was an opposition witness named Myra Hacker of the New Jersey Coalition of Patriotic Societies. She revealed its potential for massively increasing immigration, but her warning went unheeded in the general rush to pass the bill.3

More deception came on the issue of illegal immigration. In the early 1950s the flow of illegal aliens into the U.S. began to increase, but decisive action by the Eisenhower Administration stopped it in its tracks with no-nonsense roundups and deportations. Unfortunately, the effect of that lesson weakened as time went on, and by the late sixties the flow was rising again. With no response similar to Eisenhower’s, the problem reached crisis proportions by the early 1980s.

Those who wanted to stop the influx proposed increased border security and a ban on the hiring of illegal aliens, a ban enforced by strict penalties on employers who did so. At that time, however, advocates of illegal aliens were beginning to rear their heads. They opposed more border control and a hiring ban unless Congress also agreed to grant amnesty (legal status and a path to citizenship) to the estimated two or three million illegal aliens then living in the U.S. They pleaded that it would be “inhumane” to enforce the penalty of U.S. law against them.

They hastened to add, nevertheless, that they understood the danger of setting a precedent which could undermine our country’s rule of law. They said it should only happen once. One of them was Sen. Edward Kennedy.4

Thus a deal was struck in Congress, which became the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. In exchange for amnesty, our country would finally get effective action against illegal immigration. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), on the pro-enforcement side, observed several years later, “In fact, a compromise was agreed to back in 1986. [It] was a solemn vow that we would bring up amnesty one time, once, and only once, and there would be no more amnesty.”5

That “solemn vow” didn’t last long. Between 1990 and 2000, Congress granted legal status to a total of three million illegal aliens—the same number that received amnesty from IRCA.6 As for the promised enforcement, illegal alien advocates sabotaged it in every conceivable way. It was years after IRCA before the size of the Border Patrol significantly increased, and employers were given no effective means to determine the legal status of job applicants.

Despite promises for such a system, nothing materialized until 1997, when the federal government offered employers the Basic Pilot program. This voluntary system enabled them to check new hires against federal databases. E-Verify, the successor to Basic Pilot, is also voluntary. Opponents of illegal immigration would like to make it mandatory for employers, but open border advocates have staunchly resisted this requirement, using all manner of disingenuous arguments. No doubt they fear it would be effective.

The 1990s also saw other varieties of pro-immigration dishonesty arise. One was the H-1B visa program, which unscrupulous U.S. companies have used to bring in cheap foreign workers. To justify this practice they falsely claim an unending shortage of qualified Americans to do the jobs. Belying this claim is the large number of Americans with degrees in tech fields who work in other fields, as well as the fact that wage levels in tech fields are stagnant, whereas they would be rising if there were truly a shortage.7

Another deceptive tactic was refugee admissions. Many of the foreigners admitted as refugees do not truly meet the standard definition of a refugee, i.e., someone who personally has a well-founded fear of persecution. Commonly in the past that meant fear of death or imprisonment. Often today they are simply members of groups that may face some degrees of discrimination. Nevertheless, various church groups and charities misinform the public about their alleged plight because they make money from “refugee” admissions.8

The lying legacy of 1965 most particularly lives on today in the rhetoric and policies of President Barack Obama. Since coming to office he has systematically sabotaged immigration law enforcement.9 To hide this reality, his administration claimed for years that it was carrying out “record deportations.”10 This upset some illegal alien advocates who weren’t clued in to the ruse, and Obama had to reassure them that this record was, in his words, “a little deceptive.”11 Later his Department of Homeland Security was forced to admit that it was deceptive—with no “little” about it.12

One of Obama’s chief goals has been to grant amnesty to most or all of the estimated 11 million illegal aliens living in the U.S. He tried to persuade Congress, the law-making branch of government, to do this, but Congress refused. Many of its members remembered the broken promises and betrayals of 1986. Illegal alien advocates, angered by the refusal of Congress to do their bidding, called on Obama to ignore the constitutional separation of powers and proclaim amnesty with a wave of his presidential wand.

At first, to his credit, Obama resisted, and made numerous statements that he did not have the authority to act on his own. He stated on one occasion:

America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the President, am obligated to enforce the law. I don’t have a choice about that.... With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed.... [W]e’ve got three branches of government. Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws.13

But the call of expediency eventually proved too great for Obama. He unilaterally declared legal status for a total of more than five million illegal aliens. Honesty went out the window, as Obama and most other immigration advocates concocted patent lies to justify this unconstitutional action—one that threatens not only the integrity of our immigration system, but our freedoms upheld by the constitutional division of powers. Maybe the judiciary will block Obama’s overreach in this instance; maybe it won’t.

What conclusions might immigration restrictionists draw from a half-century of deceit and betrayal? One most definitely is that we can only trust our opponents to be untrustworthy. And from that understanding we might derive the zeal and determination never to trust them again, nor give the slightest credence to their claims of high-minded morality. Their smooth words should never divert attention from the flicker of their forked tongues.


1. Lawrence Auster, The Path to National Suicide. The American Immigration Control Foundation 1990, pp. 12-13.

2. Ibid.

3. Auster, op. cit., p. 14

4. Dear Colleague Letter from Edward M. Kennedy, Committee on the Judiciary, 5/14/82.

5. Congressional Record, H.R. 8632, 10/2/90.

6. The Seven Amnesties Passed by Congress, NumbersUSA, updated 2/25/15.

7. Bill Gates’ Tech Worker Fantasy: Column, USA Today; Ron Hira, Paula Stephan, et al., 7/27/14.

8. Refugee Racket, The Social Contract, Social Contract Press, Summer 2013.

9. Agents’ Union Disavows Leaders of ICE, The Washington Times, Jerry Seper, 8/9/15.

10. Napolitano: U.S. Will Set Record for Deportations, The Washington Times, Stephen Dinan, 10/5/11.

11. Obama’s Deportation Record: Inside the Numbers, CNN Politics, Alan Silverleib, 10/19/11.

12. DHS Chief Jeh Johnson Confirms Inflation of Deportation Numbers, The Daily Signal, Alissa Tabiran, 3/14/15.

13. Remarks by the President at Univision Townhall; The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 3/28/11.

About the author

John Vinson is president of the American Immigration Control Foundation.