Letter from John McCarthy to Msgr. Paul Tanner, October 1, 1965


Senator Edward Kennedy, 1962
Courtesy of the JFK Presidential Library

The passage of the 1965 Immigration Act was a watershed event in American Catholic history. The legislation, supported by politicians such as Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), finally eliminated the last remnants of the national origins quota system; many Catholics viewed this as a victory over the anti-Catholic sentiment of the earlier legislation. The new Act, however, had problems of its own, and opposition to some of its provisions arose almost immediately. In this memo to the secretary-general of the NCWC, John McCarthy, the director of the NCWC's Department of Immigration, discusses the biggest problem with the new bill, and advises Paul Tanner on the steps being taken to resolve the matter.


McCarthy to Tanner


As you read the document, reflect on the following questions:

  • What provision was the biggest major problem with the new legislation? What reason does McCarthy give for having opposed this provision?
  • McCarthy describes some of the complicated political compromises that were required to secure the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act. Which Senator held the swing vote, forcing the committee to include the problematic provision?
  • A committee was being appointed to study the new problems arising from the 1965 Act. According to McCarthy, what other fields would this committee have to look into?