Passing of Ted Kennedy Leaves a Void in Immigration Reform

According to Houston-area immigration lawyer Annie Banerjee, the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy has dealt a serious blow to hopes of immigration reform.

While health care reform has been taking the spotlight lately in reference to the recent death of Massachusetts Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy, Houston-area immigration lawyer Annie Banerjee would like to remind people that the late senator was “a significant voice for changing the immigration law.”

He was in the U.S. Senate since the mid-1960s, when the memory of his slain brother, who was also President, was fresh; and the infamous Jason-Reed Act, passed in 1924, was still adversely affecting the lives of millions of U.S. immigrants. This racist law excluded all Asians from immigrating to the United States while continuing to limit the numbers of southern and eastern Europeans entering the country to 2% of the pre-1890 U.S. population. Its basic intent was to keep America Nordic – a bit like Hitler’s Aryan pureblood theories and practices that became prevalent in Germany during the 1930s. During Senator Kennedy’s early days in office, labor unions still supported such travesties as the Jason-Reed Act because it discouraged the importation of so-called “cheap labor.”

The law’s basis was a book called The Passing of the Great Race, one of several seminal works used by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi architects to formulate their Master Race theories – a blueprint for what proved to be genocidal eugenics. Madison Grant, an anthropologist, believed that the lesser races would dilute the American race, which he wanted to be primarily Nordic European. “If it had been up to Madison Grant and people like him, my own family would have been deliberately excluded from the American Dream, because my heritage is originally East Indian,” Ms. Banerjee explains.

In 1965, it was Ted Kennedy who took on the Jason-Reed Act and advocated strenuously for its repeal. “He didn’t get everything he wanted, as politics are often a process of give-and-take, but he was able to help get the most odious racist aspects of the law eliminated,” Ms. Banerjee explains. Because of Senator Kennedy’s efforts, other immigration reform measures were later adopted. For instance, visas were allocated per hemisphere and family unification was removed from the quota system.

“America has lost a strong and clear voice for effective immigration reform,” concludes Ms. Banerjee.

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