Home history immigration Kennedy recent How the Kennedy Family Caused Today’s Immigration Crisis
Home history immigration Kennedy recent How the Kennedy Family Caused Today’s Immigration Crisis

How the Kennedy Family Caused Today’s Immigration Crisis

And brought Obama's father to America.


When LBJ signed the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act into law, JFK had been dead for two years, but it, more than the Cuban missile crisis or the race to the moon, was his real legacy which still impacts us today when there are no more Americans on the moon or nukes in Cuba.

At the signing, LBJ paid tribute to “the vision of the late beloved President John Fitzgerald Kennedy”. Little did the 36th president know that the 44th president, born to a radical Kenyan student, was already growing up in this country due to JFK’s personal intervention during his 1960 presidential campaign.

“This bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill,” President Johnson argued. “It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives… Yet it is still one of the most important acts of this Congress and of this administration.” Only the last was true.

It affected not only millions, but tens of millions, and it reshaped our lives and our country.

At the signing ceremony, LBJ was flanked by the newly minted Senator Ted Kennedy and a grinning RFK to cement the bill which ended national quotas for immigrants as the Kennedy legacy. The bill would be described as Senator Ted Kennedy’s “first legislative victory” which “helped change the face of the country” and “fashioned the modern day immigration system.”

“The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs,” Senator Ted Kennedy had promised in the Senate. All of these promises proved to be false.

The 1965 bill was a sequel to a battle that Rep. John F. Kennedy had narrowly lost to Senator Richard Nixon over the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. President Truman had vetoed the 1952 bill because it imposed national restrictions on immigration, favoring Western European immigrants and drastically limiting immigration from the rest of the world.

Kennedy had upheld Truman’s veto in the House but Nixon cast a tie-breaking vote and the 1952 bill became law.

While Nixon won the battle, Kennedy won the war. In 1958, Kennedy published “A Nation of Immigrants” which argued that restricting immigration by national origin “violated the spirit expressed in the Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal’”.He was preparing to relaunch it in 1963 for his big immigration push before his assassination.

During the 1960 presidential campaign, the Kennedy team focused its outreach on immigrant groups restricted by the bill. The 1952 bill, also known as the McCarran–Walter Act had been partly the work of Senator Pat McCarran: a powerful Senate Democrat who had wanted to keep out Poles, Ukranians and other Eastern Europeans, Jews, Greeks and everyone he did not like.

The Kennedy campaign turned to Eastern Europeans, who were prominent in Illinois, and Chinese-Americans, prominent in California, as part of its strategy to win the White House. And the strategy paid off with a narrow victory in Illinois that clinched the presidency. (Nixon narrowly won his native California, but by a far smaller margin than Eisenhower’s triumphant romp.)

That made the 1960 election into the first true multicultural presidential campaign that changed the face of American politics. And by 1968, Nixon would be cutting his own “black power” ads.

One of the more significant moments in the 1960 campaign took place at the Hyannis Inn Motel, just down the road from what is now the JFK Museum, when Kennedy met with a number of Ukrainian and Eastern European Democratic Party activists organized by Michigan Gov. Gerhard “Soapy” Williams, who headed the Democratic National Committee’s ‘Nationalities’ division to organize the support of different national groups (the term commonly used then to refer to immigrants from outside Western Europe) to rally support for the Democrats.

(As President Kennedy’s Secretary for African Affairs, ‘Soapy’ would play a key role in pulling away U.S. support from Rhodesia and South Africa while championing “Africa for Africans”.)

At the Hyannis Inn, Kennedy promised an end to national quotas and, almost as importantly, for “due process, right of appeal, and statutes of limitation” to “be extended to noncitizens” which would eventually turn immigration into the endless process of litigation that it now is.

Senator Ted Kennedy would describe immigration as a “very central part of President Kennedy’s administration.” “President Kennedy elected in 1960, one of the first pieces he introduced in the Congress of the United States was reform of our immigration laws. I remember being on the Judiciary Committee after being elected in 1962, and my brother Bob coming up and testifying for the Immigration Reform Program,” he later recalled.

Once in the White House, President John F. Kennedy could not immediately deliver on these promises, it would fall to LBJ’s dealmaking savvy and brute force politicking to do what the former pretty boy senator couldn’t and actually open up the immigration system to the world.

But what JFK could do was play on national opposition to Communism to open up the doors to refugees, which he did, ushering in the 1962 Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, initially meant to provide refuge to Cubans and Eastern Europeans fleeing Communism to come here, but which would become a key element in a virtually endless system of asylum migration.

Much as he had with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, LBJ would once again do what JFK could not, by signing on to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1968. This treaty is what forces us to process an asylum request by any migrant who walks up to the Mexican border. LBJ had promised the Senate that it would “not impinge adversely upon established practices under existing laws in the United States” and that “State laws are not superseded by the Convention or Protocol.” Those claims would also prove untrue.

States and cities have been swamped by masses of migrants crossing the border by making asylum claims and they are barred by the federal government from keeping them out.

A decade later, Senator Ted Kennedy would be hard at work codifying the UN treaty into immigration law with what would eventually become the Refugee Act of 1980. What had started out as an anti-Communist measure instead became a means of admitting Communists, Marxists, Islamists and an endless flood of migrants who could be persuaded to support them.

Refugee admissions led directly to the current border crisis, but there was another shadow immigration policy that may have been equally devastating, if not more so, which was also initially justified as a means of fighting Communism, but became a means of importing it.

The 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, for all that it was denounced as racist and exclusionary, had actually increased immigration from Asia and had begun putting into place the student visa system that political elites wanted which would dramatically transform America.

While JFK had signed the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act into law to increase the number of foreign students in 1961, Barack Obama Sr and Shyamala Gopalan, the mother of Kamala Harris, had both moved to America in 1959: using the student visas that the McCarran–Walter Act had brought into being to subsidize American universities with a flood of foreign students.

When Donald J. Harris, Kamala’s father, arrived in 1963, it was likely as part of the growing number of foreign students benefiting from the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act.

But when Sayyid Qutb, the Muslim Brotherhood leader and godfather of Islamic terrorism, fled Egypt to study in Colorado in 1949, and came away loathing everything about America and calling for war against it, he was able to do it because of the lobbying by the Institute of International Education (IIE) headed by key university and foreign policy leaders which used their elite access to vastly increase the number of foreign students coming to America.

The IIE’s promotion of foreign students led not only to visits by Qutb and Obama Sr, but by a generation of radical Marxists and Islamists who soon set up operations in this country.

The only way to understand what happened to America beginning on September 11 is to study the wave of Third World radicals who came to study at American universities and stayed, or, like Barack Obama Sr and Donald J Harris left their children behind here, or, like Qutb, learned enough to figure out how to best wage war against the United States of America.

To understand why we have pro-Hamas riots in the streets of New York City, part of the answer begins with the arrival of Archibald Wickeramaraja Singham, a Sri Lankan Marxist to study in America. He became a powerful academic and his Maoist son, Neville Roy Singham, made a fortune, moved to Shanghai and directs anti-war groups from China. His story is far from unique.

Edward Said, the academic godfather of terrorism, was sent to study at an elite boarding-school in Massachusetts before moving through Princeton and Harvard. While the IIE and the open door to foreign students was supposed to ‘Americanize’ Third World elites, those elites actually ended up radicalizing and even ‘Islamizing’ America. They have already produced one two-term president and one vice-president who could end up becoming a president in her own right.

The IIE was primarily concerned with subsidizing Ivy League universities. And the foreign students they tended to attract were radical members of the elites in their own countries.

The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act was also known as the Fulbright–Hays Act of 1961 after Senator J. William Fulbright. Fulbright had pulled off nearly as great a coup under Truman with an act amending a bill dealing with surplus property left in Europe that allowed the State Department to use the sale of “surplus war properties” to fund foreign students to come to America also partly subsidized by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.

Senator Fulbright was to foreign students what Senator Ted Kennedy was to immigration. And the IIE took the lead in making sure that colleges took full advantage of the Fulbright system.

JFK championed the Fulbright scholarships and the foreign students changing America.

“Do you know that we brought more foreign students to the United States ten years ago than we do today?” Senator John K. Kennedy had complained on the campaign trail at NYU in 1960.

Foreign students had been excluded from immigration quotas, but many did become immigrants, joining universities and firms as a new kind of intellectual cheap labor force. These men and women, engineers, doctors, bureaucrats, and academics, became the backbone of the Third World Marxist and Muslim Brotherhood presence that transformed America.

The elites who had been restrictionist eugenicists at the turn of the century were now eager to open up to the world. The Cold War as it played out in world capitals was less a matter of nuclear buildup and defense drills (which the elites dismissed as nonsense) but of a global influence operation playing out across cultural, political and academic battlefields.,

That led to everything from the CIA backing the colorful spatters of Jackson Pollock to “It’s a Wonderful Life” director Frank Capra being dispatched to India to report on Communist infiltration into Bollywood. Bringing foreign students to America was described as the ultimate influence operation. Moscow had the paltry Patrice Lumumba University while America had Harvard, Yale and Columbia, but the trouble with using the Ivy League to fight Communism was that universities were already leftist and the new students and future faculty even more so.

America’s elites did not change the world, instead the world changed them.

JFK may have been one of the best examples. During the 1960 presidential campaign, Kennedy held a press conference together with Kenyan nationalist leader Tom Mboya. The topic was Mboya’s efforts to bring members of his tribe to study in America. Hoping to appeal to black voters by embracing African nationalism, JFK tried to use his brother’s foundation to foot the bill.

Additional funding was provided by the Rockefeller Foundation.

A furious bidding war soon broke out between Nixon, inside the administration, and Kennedy over the opportunity to win over black voters by funding the airlift of Kenyan students. It was an image battle that JFK easily won with his press conference together with Mboya.

JFK’s political genius rebranded immigration, often viewed as a means of Communist infiltration, into the ultimate anti-Communist measure, turning a political weakness into a strength, and accusing the Republican administration, as it had once accused the Truman administration, of losing the world in the struggle against Communism. America could only defeat Communism, he argued, by being open to the world, taking in immigrants and students, forming the Peace Corps to go out to the world, and, as he had in Europe as a student, to learn about the world.

But what JFK really believed was that through exposure to the world, America would change, as he had been changed by his time in the United Kingdom and traveling across Europe. It was a message highly appealing to the elites who believed America was inferior to the world. Bringing Kenyan students to America was not so much about changing them, but about changing us.

JFK hoped to unify a new rising liberal coalition, fusing elites, urban and suburban Catholics and Jews, bringing in new voting blocks of black and Asian voters, and reinventing the Democratic Party and America for a new generation. He found inspiration in younger African leaders like Mboya more than anything that was happening in America and viewed them as the future.

One particular Kenyan student from Mboya’s circle would indeed become America’s future.

Mboya’s African American Students Foundation (AASF) would bring hundreds of students from Kenya to America. Among the Kenyan students receiving AASF grants was Barack Obama Sr.

“The Kennedys decided, we’re going to do an airlift. We’re going to go out to Africa. And we’re going to start bringing young Africans over to this country and bring them scholarships to study so that they can learn what a wonderful country America is. And this young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country,” Barack Obama Jr. said in his speech at Selma. Like many of Obama’s stories, it wasn’t really true, but there was some truth to it.

Barack Obama Sr. had not qualified for the original Kennedy airlift, but as a personal friend of Mboya and a fellow member of his Luo tribe, the AASF paid his expenses in Hawaii anyway.

The Kennedy administration had pitched its immigration reform plans as a way of overcoming American tribalism, but instead opened the door to the tribalism of the Third World.

“Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers,” LBJ had declared at the signing of the 1965 immigration bill that ended the quotas and opened up immigration to the world.

America since has become more of a nation of strangers than ever, at odds with one another, angry, conspiratorial, resentful and lacking a common language of values or interests.

And there is little that is beautiful about the broken America that they have built.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Tribalism is an undeniably human trait no matter what the elites tell us.
    Even they, when confronted with other tribes B-like "Gawd Irma, did you see that neanderthal actually drink his soup from the bowl?"
    Denying tribalism exists, and at the same time to force tribes to meld together is what destroyed the USSR, IMHO.


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