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The Hart–Celler Actwas widely supported in Congress. Senator Philip A. Hart introduced the administration-backed immigration bill which was reported to the Senate Judiciary Committee's Immigration and Naturalization Subcommittee. Representative Emanuel Celler introduced the bill in the House of Representatives, which voted 320 to 70 in favor of the act, while the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 76 to 18. In the Senate, 52 Democrats voted yes, 14 no, and 1 abstained. Among Senate Republicans, 24 voted yes, 3 voted no, and 1 abstained.  In the House, 202 Democrats voted yes, 60 voted no and 12 abstained, 118 Republicans voted yes, 10 voted no and 11 abstained. In total, 74% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans voted for passage of this bill. Most of the no votes were from the American South, which was then still strongly Democratic.

Republican Talking Points have targeted the late Senator Ted Kennedy with saying that if the Hart-Cellar Act was approved that it would allow those of the countries being allowed special interests, to overrun the United States like animals overtaking a piece of land by overpopulating. 


 What Was Really Said:

During debate on the Senate floor, Senator Kennedy, speaking of the effects of the act, said;

"our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. ... Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset".

Michael A. Feighan and other conservative Democrats had insisted that "family unification" should take priority over "employability", on the premise that such a weighting would maintain the existing ethnic profile of the country. That change in policy instead resulted in chain migration dominating the subsequent patterns of immigration to the United States and consequently a more ethnically diverse population.

On October 3, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation into law, saying, "This [old] system violates the basic principle of American democracy, the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man. It has been un-American in the highest sense because it has been untrue to the faith that brought thousands to these shores even before we were a country".

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