They’ll do it every time.
Whenever Joe Sixpack (or Joe’s congressman) gingerly raises the subject of hiring extra border guards, tweaking our broken system of monitoring work visas or fine-tuning our vetting of refugees from terrorist-infested countries, the cliche© knee-jerk responses are swift.
Copycat editorial cartoonists, sanctimonious talk-show hosts and professional agitators bombard us with caricatures of an immigrant-loathing Statue of Liberty and parodies of Emma Lazarus’s 1883 sonnet “The New Colossus” (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…”).
Joe and his ilk are savagely branded as haters and xenophobes and violators of sacred promises.
But “The New Colossus” is not a covenant Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. It is not an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a landmark Supreme Court ruling, an executive order, a treaty, a trade pact or even a local zoning ordinance.
It is a poem. It is an inspirational poem that has stood the test of time (although most people remember only about 13 words of it), but it is still just a poem. It is not a contract that leaves Joe legally and morally bound to suffer public shaming at the whim of elitists living in gated communities.
“The New Colossus” no more obligates Joe to accept wide-open borders than Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” means I must surrender my 10 acres of private property to vagrants or “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” mandates that someone owes me peanuts and Crackerjacks.
The “Dreamers” rightly assert that they had no choice in being brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents. Similarly, no one living today had any input into Emma Lazarus’s stanzas. No one living had veto power over the War Department bureaucrat who accepted the plaque of “The New Colossus” in 1903. No one has ever gotten to vote in a referendum about the values expressed in the poem.
Let’s use the trendy “living document” theory on Lazarus’s poem. She wrote with no idea that we would amass a national debt in the trillions, that gangs would fight with machine guns, that greedy employers would abuse H-1B visas, that some immigrants would refuse assimilation in the American “melting pot,” that some new arrivals would try to retain their own legal system, that intoxicated undocumented immigrants would kill pedestrians with a “car,” that terrorists could walk across the border just as easily as refugees genuinely fleeing poverty or political torture.
Let’s use some common sense where hospitality is concerned. Even if you are sincere when you tell a friend “Drop by for a visit when you’re in town” or “Let me know if there’s any way I can help in your time of grief,” your friend should bargain in good faith and not abuse your generosity. Likewise, let us assume there’s an implicit “Reasonable restrictions apply” clause in Lazarus’s invitation.
Citizens advocating a careful, sensible approach to immigration are being vilified as the moral equivalent of the politicians who shamelessly broke treaties with Native Americans.
But if we Americans are bullied into sacrificing our security, our economic stability, our rule of law and our best traditions, immigrants will be arriving in an America far worse than the one they dreamed of. We will be perpetuating a shameful bait-and-switch scam.
And in the process, people already living in America will become the tired, the poor, the huddled masses.
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”