The Immigration Fight Has Only Begun:
Lessons of the McCarran-Walter Setback
THE passage of the McCarran-Walter Bill has frustrated five years of effort to reform our immigration laws. At this writing, the news comes that President Truman has vetoed the bill, and it is difficult to predict whether or not it will be passed over his veto. But whether the measure ever becomes law or not, it represents a resounding defeat for all those who have toiled to bring into conformity with present needs and ideals the complex code by which we regulate the admission of immigrants.
That this code demands revision is almost beyond argument. The considerations in favor of a total overhauling of these regulations have been frequently and forcefully stated (e.g., see COMMENTARY, January 1947). The laws under which we now operate were enacted thirty years ago and are unrealistic in terms of the needs of 1952. Their intention was, presumably, to give the United States a stable flow of newcomers, fixed at a little over 150,000 a year. These laws have never done so. Assigning the largest number of places to applicants from countries like Great Britain which no longer produce substantial numbers of emigrants, and limiting the available places for countries like Italy which do, they have reduced the stream to a negligible trickle. In recent years the laws have prevented us from making useful additions to our manpower; the shortages of the early postwar years might certainly have been alleviated under a more flexible policy. In a future in which every competent demographer predicts for us a declining birth rate, such additions may become more and more desirable, if not actually essential to our national survival.
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