The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (Hart-Celler Act, INS, Act of 1965, Pub.L. 89–236) abolished the National Origins Formula that had been in place in the United States since the Emergency Quota Act. It was proposed by United States Representative Emanuel Celler of New York, co-sponsored by United States Senator Philip Hart of Michigan, and heavily supported by United States Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.
The Hart-Celler Act abolished the national origins quota system that was American immigration policy since the 1920s, replacing it with a preference system that focused on immigrants' skills and family relationships with citizens or U.S. residents. Numerical restrictions on visas were set at 170,000 per year, with a per-country-of-origin quota, not including immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, nor "special immigrants" (including those born in "independent" nations in the Western Hemisphere, former citizens, ministers, and employees of the U.S. government abroad).
The 1965 act marked a radical break from the immigration policies of the past. The law as it stood then excluded Latin America, Asians and Africans and preferred northern and western Europeans over southern and eastern ones. At the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s the law was seen as an embarrassment by, among others, President John F. Kennedy, who called the then-quota-system "nearly intolerable". After Kennedy's assassination, President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill at the foot of the Statue of Liberty as a symbolic gesture.