The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883
Many of us can trace our ancestry back to an immigrant who came through Ellis Island. Most of those immigrants were poor, uneducated and looking for a new start in a land that held great opportunity. The above sonnet is engraved on a plaque attached to the Statue of Liberty. It speaks of a nation willing to take those with little or no worldly wealth or status and offer them a chance for better, or for worse. A vast majority of Americans have immigrant ancestors who came to this land with nothing and worked to provide better for their families and posterity. Most of them did not become wealthy. Most of our stories we carry from them are not of rags to riches, but of unconquerable spirit.
Times have changed as have the needs of our nation. The doors of immigration, once held wide open are narrowing and in many cases, closing tight, unless that is, you are well educated, skilled and wealthy. During a recent debate, both Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney discussed allowing educated and skilled immigrants a path towards citizenship
. While both stopped short when pressed on allowing illegal immigrates who are educated or skilled this same path, the message is clear: If we can take advantage of your skills, if you make us look better, if you are already on the path to wealth, line up for your green card here.
Also, certain lawmakers
, Senators Mike Lee and Charles Schumer have come up with a clever idea to entice wealthy, high skilled laborers from other countries. Offer them Visas if they spend half a million on a home here in the United States. Meanwhile, laws and threats meant to scare off migrant workers (from taking jobs that Americans seem to just LOVE), have lead to many crops rotting in the fields and fruit falling off trees and not enough workers are available to harvest them
Of course, blanket amnesty for eleven million estimated illegal immigrants is not the answer either. But I wonder what it says about our country when we are more than willing to change and create laws to bring in the best of the best, while working our hardest to construct barricades to keep out the poor? How terrible must it be where you live if you are willing to risk being shot, dying of dehydration or injury in the deserts of Arizona or Texas, just to have the slightest chance at feeding your family? I was shocked at that same GOP debate when it was Newt Gingrich who was the voice of reason. Though after some things I have read, I wonder if he was right in suggesting that Americans wouldn’t stand by while families, which have been in the United States for decades, are torn apart as the parents are here illegally. I am not sure many of us wouldn’t drive the paddy wagons right up to the door steps.
It feels as if our selfishness, our fear that “what’s mine” will be taken from us by “them”, has become the driving force in every decision. Don’t tax the wealthy, because they worked so much harder than the rest of us for their money and how dare we think they can afford to pay more? Keep the dirty, poor, job stealing brown people out of our community because they surely just came here to drop a baby or get free health care or free schooling for their children. Punish the people who make the least at the expense of companies that continually get away with whatever illegal or immoral acts they want, because job creation is more important that people being able to stay in their homes (lucky for us, Senators Lee and and Schumer can sell the now vacant homes to other wealthy people).
How did all of the problems in America come to be blamed on the poor? When did the soul of our nation turn from welcoming those who had nothing, to building fences and arming citizens to keep them at bay? There has to be a better solution, right? It shouldn’t matter how much money or education you bring along when you try to immigrate. The process should be the same for everyone, right? That is the rule of law we claim to live by, claim to hold dear. But that is naive thinking on my part. Money changes everything, always has, always will.