Inscribed on a bronze tablet inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is the famous Emma Lazarus poem about welcoming immigrants. Written in 1883, “The New Colossus” is often quoted and appropriately so. In part, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” represented for many Americans what our policy on immigration was a long time ago. For some of us, it still does.
The debate on immigration and “reform” of our policies on it has had a constant place on the national agenda since citizenship was defined. What has evolved into a disorganized noise seems like an odd policy for the people of this country to allow our government to be bad at. But we do. And I don’t understand why.
How difficult is it really for us to decide what the rule should be regarding the establishment of citizenship, and implement it? My opinion is that gaining citizenship should be pretty easy. We should encourage those wishing to live here to do it the right way, check in, document themselves, become tax payers, and learn to complain about Congress being terrible for other reasons like the rest of us. At some point, the ease of that process would be the real justification for not tolerating anyone coming here illegally. As opposed to being intolerant merely as an extension of generic intolerance.
When my Great Grandpa Courtney (formerly O’Courtney) arrived at Ellis Island in the late 1800’s from Cork, was there anyone here that didn’t want his kind getting in? Of course. So what. Ellis Island was a busy place back then and our much younger country was quickly changing with each busy day. We weren’t choosing who showed up there though, and the cultures that have resulted were as beyond our control then as they are now. Again, so what. The undesirable types that are trying to get in today have an awfully lot in common with Grandpa. One trait they don’t share is that it didn’t take Grandpa ten years to become a citizen.
I want to see the borders secured as much as anyone, but for different reasons. I don’t want people risking their lives to get here. No one should have to do that. Coming here illegally should never be a logically preferred choice over engaging in a sensible, legal and efficient way of doing it. Let’s quit pretending that fences and walls designed to keep people out is the answer when our historic and American way is actually all about finding ways to let people in.
Finally, and while we are working on pretending less, how about spending some American resources in the Western Hemisphere on solutions to the turmoil in neighboring countries that is causing their children to flee. That is a cause that needs us more now than ever, and will ultimately “reform” the so called immigration crisis more than locking our doors ever could.