"A Nation of Immigrants" by John F. Kennedy

Brian Gongol

One-paragraph review: The re-publication of John F. Kennedy's book calling for immigration reform is a classic study in America's characteristic attitude of "no policy without a crisis". Kennedy, while serving as President, wanted to crusade for a comprehensive reform to the antiquated immigration policies he inherited as chief executive. The reforms ultimately came to pass after Kennedy's death -- but to review them now, the thoughtful reader will note that new reforms are needed today to change the letter of the law in order to accommodate the same spirit Kennedy advocated. "A Nation of Immigrants" lays out the injustices of policies that artificially pegged one generation's immigration quotas to the volume of immigrants who had arrived in the generations before. He advocated on behalf of reforms that would reverse generations of discrimination against Asian immigrants and for those that would reconcile entry with the nation's economic needs. Kennedy's views were forward-thinking for their time; what is striking is that many Americans today would find them too open, even though in many ways his views were really too closed.

Verdict: A brief book from a half-century ago whose spirit remains applicable to a major public policy challenge today