The latest foray of the Trump Administration into the ethos of this nation is now under way. Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration is hawking the “public charge” philosophy of Donald J. Trump. On NPR when being interviewed, Cuccinelli said that the famous words inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty should now read: “ Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”
Millions of Americans who love “The New Colossus”, the poem by Emma Lazarus, were dismayed that nothing was sacred anymore with the Trump Administration.
Cuccinelli set off an avalanche of criticism from members of Congress as well as U.S. citizens who found this a shocking new policy that would reject the poor for green cards. Cable television featured historians who cited John F. Kennedy’s “Nation of Immigrants” book to stress that except for Native Americans and African Americans who are 14th generation since their ancestors were brought here as slaves, the rest of our population came as immigrants, seeking a better life. And most Americans today are descendants of immigrants who came in the one hundred years between 1850 and 1965.
Exclusion laws began with The Chinese Exclusion Act in l882 followed by Laws in 1924 that favored immigrants from Northern and Western Europe over Southern and Eastern Europe. Quota systems lasted for each country until 1965. People waited for decades and families often came in shifts when money for tickets was not available.
Ellis Island was the main port of entry and The Statue of Liberty became the symbol worldwide , holding her torch high as the welcoming beam to guide them safely here.
Stephen Miller who wrote the president’s “American Carnage “ Inauguration Speech created the new public charge policy. He was described in The New York Times as ‘ the architect of Trump’s immigration agenda.” Cuccinelli reflects Miller’s view that immigrants should not rely on financial government support like food stamps or Medicaid.
Donald Trump’s negative view of immigrants was heard in his first words descending the escalator in Trump Tower in 2015 that Mexicans crossing the Southern Border were “rapists and murderers”. In his three bans on Muslims entering the country, he continued to denigrate immigrants. He also hyped imaginary caravans of thousands of immigrants coming before the midterm elections. An Invasion! After it was over, the caravans disappeared from his tweets.
Advocacy groups estimate that 26 million legal immigrants living and working in the United States will reconsider their use of government benefits because they would fear that acceptance of assistance would affect their ability to remain in the United States. Several immigration groups have pledged to sue the Trump administration . Over the past several months, tens of thousands of people opposed the new policy in a public comment period.
Cynthia Buiza , Executive Director of The California Immigrant Policy Center, said, ‘Shame on the Trump Administration for expanding a rule with racist roots in a shameful ploy to rig the immigration system for the wealthy. We thank all who stood up against the administration’s hate filled agenda, and we will continue to fight for our values of community , compassion and concerned humanity.’’
Epilogue: Emma Lazarus came from a prominent New York Jewish family whose ancestors settled there before The Revolutionary War. She was an established poet and donated her poem “The New Colossus” to raising funds for the Pedestal of The Statue of Liberty.
It was being built in France as a gift to the United States by the sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. He called it “La Liberte eclairant le monde. Liberty Enlightening The World. ‘’
The closing words of the poem as written by Emma Lazarus:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send them, the homeless, the tempest tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Her entire poem is engraved on a bronze plaque on the Pedestal of The Statue of Liberty.
……………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson