Category Archives: Immigration Policy

Changing Liberty

In 1886 France sent us as a gift, a statue by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, to celebrate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. It was sent in pieces and assembled to sit in New York Harbor. At the time it sat astride New York City and Brooklyn which were only consolidated in 1883. At the time that this gift was given, this gift that came to symbolize the world’s regard for our great political “experiment” and for the ideal it represented, the population of American was just over 76 million. We were a huge and sprawling nation with seemingly endless amounts of space and opportunity.

In that same year a contest was held to pick a poem to dedicate the statue of Liberty. Wikipedia tells me that “the title of the poem and the first two lines refer to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The poem talks about the millions of immigrants who came to the United States (many of them through Ellis Island at the port of New York.”

“The “air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame” refers to New York City and Brooklyn, not yet consolidated into one unit in 1883.”

This poem, The New Colossus, although written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus, was not engraved on “Lady” Liberty until 1903.

“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!”

Also from Wikipedia we learn that:

John T. Cunningham wrote that “The Statue of Liberty was not conceived and sculpted as a symbol of immigration, but it quickly became so as immigrant ships passed under the statue. However, it was Lazarus’s poem that permanently stamped on Miss Liberty the role of unofficial greeter of incoming immigrants”.[6]

Paul Auster wrote that “Bartholdi’s gigantic effigy was originally intended as a monument to the principles of international republicanism, but ‘The New Colossus’ reinvented the statue’s purpose, turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden of the world”.[7]


Today we live in an America bursting with people from shore to shore. Our population has quadrupled to almost 309 million people and we are involved in trying to pass new immigration laws that will deal with “illegal” immigrants. Listening to what our Republican representatives in Congress have to say about illegal immigrants makes it clear that, although I am sure all of these Americans can trace their roots to other nations, sympathy for recent immigrants who broke our laws is in short supply. These lawmakers do not see current immigration policy as an exercise in humanism. They also plan to be sure that future immigrants do not resemble previous immigrants. So I rewrote the Liberty poem and here is my new not-a-sonnet with the revised plaque quotation for our Statue of Liberty, as per some of our Republican legislators:

For one hundred years the world expected
Our democracy to hit a shoal
The ship of state exploding on the rocks
Of man’s rapacious nature; or as Freedom’s Fool.

In spite of disbelief the people came
To populate the shores of this, their ideal land.
The world’s dreamers, daily drawn by Liberty’s permission.
They peopled tenements while struggling for provisions,
And founded families, and built a prosperous nation.

Today we find that people wandered in without permission
And made themselves at home with secrets hidden
They broke the laws of their adopted nation
To find success, and hope for offspring’s freedom.
Now some think that Liberty’s words must change.
They want to rewrite that  burnished antique plaque
And slam the open doors that always offered hope.

 “Give us the sons and daughters of your wealthiest families
Give us only your gifted, your smartest, your most industrious
And keep your poor, your wretched refuse dying to be free.”
(As if our nation never profited from all that hard-scrabble ambition.)

Perhaps poetry is not my strength, but I think this still gets my point across. We need to pass the Immigration Law that was drafted by the bipartisan Committee of Eight. Every day we are not clear about where America stands on immigration we make it possible that more people will become disenchanted and take their talents elsewhere, or lose faith in the American dream and turn against us, or just continue to arrive illegally to take their chances that our government will not be able to agree on a policy. If the gridlock in our Congress is not too great to accomplish anything, then let us at least accomplish this.



Obama’s Bad Week

Obama had a very bad week if you listen to the media. He met with Russian President, Putin, to discuss Syria. Syria is weighing on all our minds, but is a conundrum. Assad is a bad leader but the groups arrayed against him are the confusing part. There does not seem to be one group of rebels and Al-Qaeda is possibly involved. There is no clear image of what result Syrians have in mind beyond getting rid of Assad. Egypt hasn’t done very well with their unfocused revolution. They got rid of Mubarak and ended up with a military dictatorship which doesn’t look like it is going away.

This week we got word that a ship filled with Russian arms was headed towards Syria. After we got crazy about this we were told that the Russian arms were possibly headed to a Russian base to reinforce it. We also hear that the CIA may be supplying weapons to Syria. Then we get the photo op picture of Putin leaning away from Obama as Obama leans towards the Russian leader and the media suddenly are experts in reading cross-cultural body language, so they intimate that Putin wants no part of whatever Obama is offering and that Putin is distancing himself from Obama. Obama later says that the media did not have enough insight into this exchange to make a proper interpretation, but the photo is out there and so is the commentary.
Eric Holder was held in contempt this week for refusing to supply additional paperwork about “fast and furious” to The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigating him, a committee heavily weighted with Republicans. Obama stood behind his Attorney General and used his power of executive privilege to deny access to any more paperwork but we are left wondering if this is an issue of national security or merely a cover-up. None of us are happy with what we have heard about “fast and furious” (although this program began under Bush but was known by the name Project Gunrunner). Allowing American guns to end up in the hands of the Mexican drug cartels with the end result that an American Border Guard is killed by an American weapon – this shocked us. What could possibly be the point of arming drug runners with American weapons? Were we hoping to trace them as they left a trail of death across Mexico? It makes you want to slap your head and “what were they thinking”? However, it is entirely possible that the Republican Party has engineered the timing of this investigation to coincide with the latter stages of the 2012 election. If Eric Holder resigns, as Republicans want him to do, Obama loses another of his team of experts that came with him to the White House, some of the responsibility for this “fast and furious” fiasco taints Obama. Furthermore the House does not have to worry about doing the things we need them to do like pass the transportation bill and make sure that college loan interest rates don’t double, because they are busy turning Eric Holder into a criminal and tarring Obama with the same brush.
We also hear that things did not go well at the meeting of the G20. What could possibly go well with any meeting right now that purports to deal with the global economy? Europe just made their most recent moves and is in waiting mode. Five American banks were just downgraded. There is not much good news out there for anyone. The Republicans act like they could do better. They are firmly on board with the Paul Ryan budget and they think it is a magic bullet. Well don’t believe them. There is no magic bullet to reverse the economic changes which are rocking our world right now. We do need to spend much more carefully than we have in the past. We need to make very careful decisions about where an influx of dollars will do the most good and we have to tighten our belts in other areas. But the Republicans and Paul Ryan are obsessed with the idea that privatizing everything is the answer for America. Read the Gail Collins article from the NYT for 6/21/2012. Read the Paul Krugman article from the NYT for 6/22/12. At least get another point of view before you decide to go all out for the gospel according to Paul Ryan.
The Republican Party has also continued with its campaign for preventing Obama from accomplishing anything. They then act very upset when Obama does an end run around them to make any little baby step that can count as progress. This time Obama made his Immigration Policy Decision to allow young illegal immigrants in America to extend their stay for 2 years at a time. This allows these young people to plan a future. This decision on the part of Obama gave Republicans an opening to rant that Obama trashes the American Constitution for political gain. It also allows the GOP to deplore the use of a stopgap solution instead of a real, long term solution to the problem of illegal immigrants. The only plan I have heard from Republicans is centered on deportation. The GOP is trying to make this a jobs issue. They are saying that Obama has not created jobs for Americans or illegal immigrants and they are trying to get people riled up because these illegals will now be competing for the few jobs that are available. I have to give the Republicans credit; they never waste an opportunity for spin.
So Obama, you made it through a very tough week and the only good thing that happened, according to the media, is that the Supreme Court did not make the Affordable Health Care Plan unconstitutional yet. Maybe all this negativity in one week will set up your karma for a more positive week during the last week of June. Hang in there. We also realize that your week may not have been as negative as the media painted it.