Editorial: Warping of Statue poem stands against diversity

Published 10:16 am Saturday, August 17, 2019

In the increasingly volatile climate surrounding the current political and social landscape of our country, the ideas of race and immigration continue to be at the forefront.

Immigrants as a whole from countries in South America, Africa and the Middle East are being targeted in a crusade meant to keep specific people out, resulting in things like the practice of family separations we’re seeing along the southern border.

Now it should be said from the onset that there are problems that need to be dealt with in terms of our immigration system.

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It’s ponderous and drawn out with a wait time that can last for months, sometimes even longer. The average time to reach citizenship is about 10 months, but according to a New York Times article from February of this year, that number itself has nearly doubled from just two years ago.

To be certain, nobody here is suggesting we fling open wide our borders, letting any and all just walk in. There needs to be a process. There are logistical as well as security concerns that have to be examined. There needs to be an orderly system to immigration, but it also needs to be more efficient.

Sadly however, another chapter is being written in this ongoing story when Trump administration official Ken Cuccinelli suggested earlier this week that the poem adorning the base of the Statue of Liberty was meant only for those migrating from Europe.

In an interview with CNN, Cuccinelli claimed that the poem “The New Colossus” referred, “to people coming from Europe where they had class-based societies.”

There is reason to believe this isn’t the case and only stands as another frustrating tale from an administration that would rather push lies than accept truths.

In a recent Associated Press article, the biographer of poet Emma Lazarus, who wrote the 1883 poem speaks to the truth of this.

Author Esther Schor indicated that Lazarus never meant for her poem to be so specific and pointed out in that same AP story that Lazarus was “deeply involved” in refugee causes.

The poem is perhaps most notable for the line, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” but another line earlier in the poem perhaps says even more: “From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome.”

World-wide welcome.

What makes this incident from earlier this week truly sad is that it flies completely in the face of what makes our own community great. The city of Austin is an open book of the world, filled with the flags of other nations representing Sudanese, Karenni, Somali, Hispanic and so many others that call Austin home.

Just as anybody else, immigrants to our country and our city are looking for a better life and are working hard toward that end. During our Freedom Fest parade, flags of these nations were walked down Main Street by beaming faces, happy to call Austin home as anybody else.

Austin is made rich through its diversity. We have become better and we have become stronger.

This is a story of us all. The Statue of Liberty is a beacon of welcome not just to a single group of people, but for all the world.

Yes, our government needs to work hard to fix our immigration problem. And immigrants need to follow our laws when in our country, but we can not simply slam the door of opportunity, hoping the problem will go away. We certainly can’t use a large brushstroke to paint all immigrants the same.

We’ve got problems, but they can be fixed and should be fixed if sides would just come together and solve the problem.