09/04/2009 05:56 PM
Ted Kennedy made one major mistake in his career which has cost generations of Irish-born access to America.
As the author of the 1965 Immigration Act, he saw to it that the long-standing laws that gave a huge advantage to European immigrants was removed.
That was fine and there needed to be a far fairer balance between Europe and other regions of the world when it came to legal emigration to America.
What Kennedy unwittingly did however was effectively end forever - or at least to this date, any legal emigration from Ireland.
Kennedy later acknowledged that the end of legal emigration from Ireland was an unintended consequence of the bill he pushed through Congress.
He appeared at several Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform events in Washington D.C and vowed to try and right the wrong to his ancestral countrymen.
He tried his best but the defeat of the Kennedy/McCain bill last year was his final effort
There were warnings at the time. "Tip" O'Neill later speaker of the house asked the Irish government if they wanted an exception in their case.
The government of the day amazingly replied no, sealing the fate of hundreds of thousands of their emigrants who have lived illegally in America since then. There was opposition from Irish organizations but Kennedy brushed it off.
His aides were worried about a bill that would take away Irish immigration to America but Kennedy ploughed ahead, aided and abetted by brother Robert who was also in the Senate at the same time.
The previous so-called national origins policy was utterly discriminatory but it would have been the right thing to ensure that mother countries of generations of American immigrants had some legal recourse to immigration.
Some southern Republicans strongly opposed Kennedy's efforts to end immigration as America knew it, but he moved past them.
It was the time of huge civil rights breakthroughs and Kennedy saw immigration in the same light.
On September 22 1965 the Senate voted 76-18 to pass the new bill that utterly excluded emigration from Europe save in a very small percentage of cases.
We Irish are suffering the consequences since.