Thank you very much for coming, everybody. And first, may I salute the Attorney General and Secretary Ed Derwinski, and also, welcome the distinguished Members of Congress who are with us today: Senator Kennedy and Senator Thurmond, Senator Simpson, Senator Simon. Ham Fish was to be here; Congressmen Morrison and Lamar Smith are with us. I don't know whether Ham wedged into the back or not. But in any event, welcome to all of you.
Today I am pleased to sign S. 358, the Immigration Act of 1990. It is the most comprehensive reform of our immigration laws in 66 years. Nearly all Americans have ancestors who braved the oceans -- liberty-loving risk takers in search of an ideal -- the largest voluntary migrations in recorded history. Across the Pacific, across the Atlantic, they came from every point on the compass -- many passing beneath the Statue of Liberty -- with fear and vision, with sorrow and adventure, fleeing tyranny or terror, seeking haven, and all seeking hope.
And now we stand again before an open door -- a door into tomorrow. Immigration reform began in 1986 with an effort to close the back door on illegal immigration. And now as we open the front door to increased legal immigration, this bill provides long-needed enforcement authority. It also credits the special role of immigrants to America, and it will promote a more competitive economy, respect for the family unit, and swift punishment for drugs and crime.
Immigration is not just a link to America's past; it's also a bridge to America's future. This bill provides for vital increases for entry on the basis of skills, infusing the ranks of our scientists and engineers and educators with new blood and new ideas. And it also boosts our war on drugs and crime, allowing us to send back alien offenders who threaten our streets and who make up nearly a fourth of our Federal prison populations. It'll help secure our borders, the front lines of the drug war. It also revises the exclusion grounds for the first time since enactment in 1952, putting an end to the kind of political litmus tests that might have excluded even some of the heroes of the Eastern European Revolution of 1989.
This bill is good for families, good for business, good for crime fighting, and good for America. We welcome both it and the generations of future Americans who it will bring in to strengthen our great country.
And now I am honored and pleased to sign into law the Immigration Act of 1990. And I'd like to ask the Members of Congress -- if you all would come up -- if we do this. Ed, if you'll get on one side and Dick on the other.
[At this point, the President signed the bill.]
There we go. Well done. Thank you.
Note: The President spoke at 2:28 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Attorney General Dick Thornburgh; Secretary of Veterans Affairs Edward J. Derwinski; and Representative Hamilton Fish, Jr. S. 358, approved November 29, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 649.