“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-lost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These are the famous last five lines of the sonnet The New Colossus written by Emma Lazarus (1849–1887) in 1883 that appear on the Statue of Liberty.
Ms. Lazarus, the daughter of a privileged, Jewish family in New York City, was actually referring to the plight of poor, European Jewry, brutalized throughout Europe, in that sonnet. The Statue of Liberty, at the foot of which the sonnet found a home in 1903, was a gift from France whose sole aim was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of America’s independence from England.
Contrary to the Left’s hijacking of intentions, these were the true meanings behind the statue and sonnet. The significance of Lady Liberty and the sonnet have been deliberately distorted ever since by the Left.
The existence America promised was the shared aspiration of the “wretched” of every nationality that flocked here. They knew that by coming to our teeming shore, with work, they could obtain the liberty, security and standing that could never be realized in the lands of their birth.
Their children were not cemented to the same existence they’d shared with their fathers and their fathers’ fathers. They could rise from the lowest to heights unimagined in a single generation. American immigration laws were enforced. Immigration was controlled, as is the responsibility of any sovereign nation to its inhabitants. The shared aim of immigrants, regardless of their country of origin, was that they wanted to be Americans. Citizenship was earned. The oath of loyalty to the émigré’s new, chosen homeland was administered in English
It would never have occurred to anyone to have it otherwise; no ethnic group was ever dissuaded from maintaining their heritage. But there was never any question that they were, first and foremost, American.
Ted Kennedy changed all of that. In 1965 Kennedy revamped the entire immigration system. He eliminated firm immigration caps and introduced chain migration into America from every overpopulated country in the world, smashing annual immigration numbers.
In the 1970s Kennedy massively expanded refugee programs, introducing enormous loopholes and encouraging a national resettlement trade that became a major lobby for more and more immigration.
Kennedy was far from finished. In 1986 he got Republicans to agree to blanket amnesty; the amnesty to end all amnesties. This is the amnesty the Left always lays at Ronald Reagan’s feet. The law was deliberately written in a way that was guaranteed not to work. Just a few years later, Kennedy would use the inability to enforce the 1986 rules as an excuse for issuing more green cards and more amnesties. So much for Democrat promises.
Kennedy’s 1990 Immigration Act boosted immigration by another 35%. George H.W. Bush was his accomplice. Today’s Republicans seem eager to compound that disgrace. The 1990 Immigration Act also randomly gifted 50,000 green cards a year to people from countries selected because they had few ties and cultural connection with America. Worse still, highly skilled, European, English-speaking immigration applicants were denied, almost to a man.
The make-up of America’s immigrant population had been changed. Kennedy’s assaults on America’s structure were eulogized by Doris Meissner, Former Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner: “Senator Kennedy helped change the character of the immigration system, and indeed the country, bringing the United States a step closer to its founding ideals of fairness and opportunity for all.”
For all? Ms. Meissner conveniently avoided the fact that Emma Lazarus’ sonnet doesn’t state: “Give me your tired, your poor, the wretched refuse…” exclusively.