The New Colossus
The Statue of Liberty turned 125 yrs old on Friday the 28th of Oct. These words were inscribed in the Statue of Liberty in 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!”
The often quoted and best remembered lines: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” are known to every schoolchild (or at least were when I was one). Both my grandparents on my mother’s side came through Ellis Island and read those words inscribed therein. In those days massive ships came through the harbor filled with the huddled masses leaving their teeming shores and depositing them at the doorstep to America. You can even search for your own ancestors at the EllisIsland.org website where I found mine (no I won’t tell you who). My grandmother had a ticket on the Titanic, but her cousin talked her into waiting a month so they could come together. She was reluctant to miss her chance on the big ship’s maiden voyage but it is almost a certainty that she’d have been another 3rd class victim and no one would be writing this. On my father’s side I can trace relatives back beyond the Daughters of the American Revolution, so theoretically at least I have a right to be here that supersedes those whose ancestors contributed less. Of course that isn’t true, just because my great-great-great-somebody took up arms in defense of our original liberty doesn’t qualify me anymore than someone whose “illegal” immigrant father is currently fighting for our country in Afghanistan.
When did we lose sight of the spirit of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free?” How did we allow ourselves to become transfixed by thousands of pages of arcane rules, regulations, race quotas and preferences? It is no wonder there are so many illegal immigrants, without a $600 per hour lawyer at your side (along with a $120/hr translator) how could you navigate all those rules properly, crossing every “t” and dotting every “I” filling out your 27B stroke 6?
Lawyers adept at navigating these Byzantine waters certainly know how to game the system. Immigration has become just another industry, with the usual capitalist caveats such as artificial shortages (supply/demand) to increase the value of the commodity proffered. If that site seems rather wonkish (and of course it is) you begin to understand the abstruse world of immigration law. This is by design of course, like our tax code (employing hundreds of thousands of accountants and lawyers) the more obfuscated our immigration code, the higher the revenue going into the pockets of legal firms, lobbyists and ultimately politicians.
What can we do to solve this? Probably nothing alas, but if we could, if we were kings for a day (president for a day has far too little power), we could start over from a blank sheet of paper. I wouldn’t continue with the usual suspects jealously playing their little parts in the overall system, but lord knows if we started a new department it would grow into a new beast to be dealt with another day. The current laws, alphabet soup of acronyms and enforcing agencies with often conflicting oversight need to be eliminated.
How about this?
We have 50 states. Each state should have its own quota instead of the federal quotas. There are plenty of communities in our interior that are dying. While attempting to raise everyone’s living standard is a non-starter, whole enclaves could exist in many of our dead towns, they might not be as wealthy as some would like, but they would be light years beyond what they left on their teeming shores. Who knows what crops and products they might produce? Today’s farmers won’t even consider land that doesn’t easily allow large motorized tractors, and much of what drives farmers bankrupt is purchasing those behemoths.
Could farmers from Kyrgyzstan make a living on land here that is considerably less marginal than what they’re eking out a living on today? It happens that I purchase tomatoes from a Kyrgyzstan farmer who is supporting 5 children and a wife on 5 acres on the side of a steep mountain. The tomatoes are so big they look like pumpkins, and everyone I know (including me) can barely get heirlooms to produce beyond plum size at my cold latitude’s short growing season (record cold for the past 5 years and counting). The poor guy thinks he’s died and gone to heaven, what with 5 whole acres that he can actually own! If you told him he was underprivileged (statistically I’m sure he is considered well below poverty line), he’d likely nod politely and mentally write you off as a kook.
I don’t really know the answers, but would be willing to see the experiment be given a try. Our melting pot nation needs some new blood, new ingredients in the stew. We have too many immigrants “stuck” in big cities with no outlets and minimal upward mobility options. Meantime they would be welcome in “flyover” country, where they would increase property values and convert boarded over shop doors into much-needed ethnic food diversity.
Could there be issues with integration? Sure, but no worse than already occurs and immigrants could help with the xenophobia small communities experience by reverting to tribal psychology (forgetting that their own ancestors were immigrants too). The furor being artificially created by our political class over “illegal” immigration is there to create a divide, and drive a further wedge into our society.
There’s (mostly) nothing wrong with being law-abiding. Making the laws easier to abide by seems an obvious solution.