A Nation of Immigrants, No More?
“The famous words of Emma Lazarus on the pedestal of the Statute of Liberty read: “Give me your tired, you are poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Until 1921 this was an accurate picture of our society. Under present law it would be appropriate to add: “as long as they come from Northern Europe, are not too tired or too poor or slightly ill, never stole a loaf of bread, never joined any questionable organization, and can document their activities from the past two years.”
― John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants
Several days ago, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed its mission statement to omit the phrase “a nation of immigrants.” This move corresponds with the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant stance. It would seem that the Administration wishes to blot our nation’s immigration heritage out of memory. Yet, historically such efforts do not work.
The ancient Egyptians tried to blot out the names of Moses and Queen Hatshepsut to no avail. The Romans unsuccessfully tried to erase Maximillian from their memory and almost tried to do the same to Caligula. Similarly, Christendom tried to remove anyone deemed a heretic from its annals of history. In modern times, both Stalin and Hitler, as well as the Chinese Communist party, were known to “erase” people with whom they were in conflict. All these efforts were to no avail.
Perhaps this move is an attempt on the part of this Administration to counter local communities’ removal of Confederate monuments across the nation. Yet, the removal of those monuments is justified by the specific intent to avoid symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism. What is egregious here is that the removal of the phrase “a nation of immigrants”, from the mission statement of the agency designed to welcome immigrants, is unjustified and only furthers the ultimate purpose of promoting an anti-immigrant modern white supremacy society.
This blatant un-American attempt to rewrite our values is even more disturbing given the mixed positioning of the only protection people have, the Court. This week the US Supreme Court forced the hand of this Administration requiring that all “Dreamers status” continue to be protected. Yet, the Supreme Court also dealt a blow to immigrant detainees, deciding that they are not afforded the Constitutionally recognized inalienable right to liberty.
The great American democracy has always welcomed the tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Their memories cannot be forgotten, nor can their contributions be erased. It’s simple, immigrants produce the melting pot. We are all, except for the native American, the fruit of an immigrant’s tale. It is who we are. To erase them is to erase ourselves. We should all be reminded that, when one chases nature, it returns at a gallop.
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