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MPI Comments on the Legacy of Sen. Edward Kennedy

Press Release
Wednesday, August 26, 2009

MPI Comments on the Legacy of Sen. Edward Kennedy

WASHINGTON – Sen. Edward Kennedy's 46-year Senate career, rich in accomplishments across a range of issue areas, also included a prominent and enduring focus on immigration and refugee policies. The Migration Policy Institute comments on Sen. Kennedy's legacy:

MPI President Demetrios G. Papademetriou:

"Senator Kennedy exhibited a lifetime of unparalleled and unwavering commitment to policies that reflect our country's traditions of uniting families, protecting refugees and keeping our labor market open to those who can contribute to the American economy. His wisdom, insight and complete mastery of the legislative process will be greatly missed, as will his compassion, warmth and absolute dedication to the cause of justice for all."

MPI Senior Fellow Doris Meissner, who heads MPI's U.S. Immigration Policy Program and served as INS Commissioner during the Clinton administration:

"Beginning with his championing of the Immigration Act of 1965, which eliminated national-origin quotas, Senator Kennedy worked tirelessly for the past five decades to make the U.S. immigration system one that is color-blind, more just, and a safe haven for people fleeing persecution and upheaval around the world. In so doing, Senator Kennedy helped change the character of the immigration system, and indeed the country, bringing the United States a step closer to its founding ideals of fairness and opportunity for all. Senator Kennedy had a tremendous sense of trying to address injustice and right wrongs – and there are plenty of them in the immigration field – and he was always there, working and prodding to make the immigration system a better, fairer one."

MPI Vice President for Programs Don Kerwin:

"Senator Kennedy viewed immigration policy both as a way to strengthen and renew our nation, and as a tool to protect and safeguard people in great need. His accomplishments in the immigration field were legion. His first major legislative initiative, the Immigration Act of 1965, will go down as one of our nation's core civil-rights bills of that era, helping to preserve immigrant families and to eliminate discriminatory 'national-origin' quotas. Beginning in the 1970s, Senator Kennedy championed the U.S. refugee program, which since that time has provided protection to 2.6 million refugees from throughout the world. His leadership in passing the Refugee Act of 1980 significantly strengthened U.S. asylum and refugee law, bringing it into compliance with international norms. In 1986, Senator Kennedy strongly supported legalization provisions contained in the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which provided nearly 3 million immigrants with the opportunity to legalize their status. His leadership on the Immigration Act of 1990 helped to create temporary protected status for persons fleeing refugee-like situations. In the 1990s, he advocated for the just treatment of Haitians fleeing political persecution. He was an original sponsor of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which offered legal status and protection to immigrants in abusive situations. Most recently, he sought comprehensive reform of the nation's immigration laws, as a co-author of the McCain-Kennedy bill in 2006 and as one of the main negotiators of the Senate bill in 2007. Senator Kennedy's legacy has been one of openness to millions of worthy immigrants, and in so doing, he has helped to create a stronger, more robust and compassionate nation."

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The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels.