Written March 27, 2011
Recently, a friend of the family wrote, “I am all for foreigners coming to this country, but they better do it legally. There have been many foreigners in the past who have had to pay a great price to become legal aliens. If we just left anybody in, that makes a mockery of how much the legals had to sacrifice to come here legally…”
For awhile, I was completely confused by the statement. Then I started to unravel it. Without realizing it, this friend of my family had exposed the very war currently being waged within America. While I won’t address my concerns about calling any naturalized citizen a legal alien, instead of an American, there is a bigger issue.
When I was growing up, I watched movies with my parents that included “In the Army” which starred Ronald Reagan. It was a movie showcasing the diversity of America, the power of its communities, its inclusiveness in a dream. It showcased people who served in World War I, and their families serving in World War II. And, the diverse immigrants that were in the movie was dizzying for that time.
In a world where Ronald Reagan has replaced the Statue of Liberty as our most cherished of symbols, America is quickly returning to its glory days before the rise of the populist movement. We have embraced a strategy of lowering taxes on those making billions, while raising the real costs of living for those who are less fortunate. Rising gas prices and food prices continue to erode the bottom 100 million working in America today. Yet, many continue to believe in a failed 30 year strategy of lowering income taxes in hopes the economy will respond and the rich will save America.
Currently the top 400 richest families earned what the bottom 100 million families earned combined. In America, 400 should not equal 100 million. Not by any math. It is easy to understand. Everyone wants to keep what they earn and pay a fair share to maintain this great land. Yet, these two groups have targeted different areas to achieve a greater share for themselves. The 400 families have focused on tax policy and reducing to 35% the national income tax from a top 94% (to help pay for World War II), while the bottom 100 million are clamoring to defend our borders, and shut out those who enter our society at the bottom to keep what little they have.
The poem associated with the Statue of Liberty includes the phrase,
“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!”
Our policy of immigration led to the great growth of America. People moved here who yearned for freedom. Were there challenges? Yes. Were they discriminated against? Yes.
Yet today, we rebuff them, dehumanize them, and politicians use them as fodder for their political ends. The light of Liberty remains a beacon to all of those who live under the worst of conditions outside of this great country. But, many of those who come to our land are unaware how America has created hurdles to the land of the free.
How can those from other countries, lacking education, yet desiring a better life for their children, know that we can legally impoverish others, force them to access medical assistance via the most expensive sources, and deny them redress if they don’t have financial resources?
America opens its banquet of plenty for every major emergency, but we don’t want transplants. If your home is too dangerous to live in, stay there and fix it. In fact, we’ll send our military to help, even if we helped create the problem. We are the land that coined the phrase, “Give me liberty or give me death”. And, we mean it. If you don’t have liberty where you are, we are fine with the idea that you may be persecuted and die.
It is an unchristian thing we, as a country do. We are proud as Americans for being a beacon of hope, yet, for those who now come to us poor and speaking Spanish, we ask them to return home. I believe America is capable of so much more. Yet, instead, we are more worried about billionaires keeping 2% more off their wealth, rather than feeding the hungry, clothing the sick, comforting the weak, or addressing our infrastructure.
We must stop attacking those who come to America seeking hope, health and a new life. We should develop an immigration policy that includes a process for those who are undocumented that is not punitive or out of reach of those who are poor. The current policy is broken. It is simply a policy of “sorry, go home”.
America faces a shortage in the Social Security Trust Fund, Medicare is hemorrhaging, there are limited resources to address long term care issues for an aging population, and a shrinking workforce. While immigration cannot fix everything (changes in tax policy would be needed), addressing immigration with our South American neighbors could restore the beacon of hope.
America has abundant resources and enough initiative and strength to accommodate those who want to join in the dream. Those who think America is limited in our abilities or would deny them to those who want to join are simply Un-American.