The New Colossus in the Border Towns

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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 nation is struggling through the issue of immigration right now. There are lots of ideas floating around. And while I don’t think there’s an easy solution to it, I do think there are some decisions that could be made that would improve the situations. The poem above is “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. It was written and published in a book of writings to raise money for the Statue of Liberty, then later was chosen to be engraved on the statue.

People get pretty fired up about immigration, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum. It seems not to be a partisan issue, but instead it crosses all geographic, economic, and sociopolitical borders. Rather than examine all the opinions out there for and against immigration reform, I’m simply going to outline my opinion.

I believe immigration is what makes America the country she is today. My great-great-great-great grandparents immigrated from several places across Europe in the 1800’s. One of those ancestors came to the U.S. in 1806. Just to put that into perspective, Thomas Jefferson was president and Napoleon was ruling France. He was quickly put into service in the War of 1812.

I believe immigration in the long run and often times in the short run, will make America a stronger country. Jobs seem to be one of the key issues. As long as America wants to develop economically, it must accept the immigrant worker.

There are already millions of immigrants in the U.S. from Central America, South America, the Caribbean, East Asia, Canada, Europe, and many other places.

Am I proposing that San Diego, El Paso, Niagra Falls, Blaine, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York become modern day Ellis Islands? To a certain extent, I guess I am. I believe in measured amnesty for illegal immigrants that are already here in the U.S. that have shown themselves to be productive and employable. My biggest problem with illegal immigration is that we don’t know who’s here. That’s the CIA/FBI/NSA’s biggest nightmare is that people whose intent it is to hurt or destroy America or Americans are sliding through the fences of Tijuana. While I don’t doubt a terrorist’s ease at cracking our border, I do think that the well funded terrorists have more sophisticated means…this saying nothing of people who are legal U.S. citizens that wish to hurt America or Americans.

So it ought to be easier to gain U.S. citizenship for those who are here and working. This would force employers in the construction, agriculture and these other immigrant friendly industries to document their books a little better and the hard working honest immigrants would be allowed to contribute to federal, state and local governments by paying taxes on documented wages. It may drive the cost of goods up for all of us, but that just might be the cost of a progressive United States.

In jobs I’ve had, I’ve worked with several immigrants, some legal, some illegal. What opened my eyes more than anything in these experiences was how smart and willing to contribute these people are. They work in restaurants or clean schools or help put up and take down tents not because that’s all they’re qualified for, but because the language barrier prevents them from pursuing the types of jobs they had in their native countries. I’ve worked with men who were police officers, government officials, programmers, teachers and other well-respected jobs. They give up that in order for the opportunities that the U.S. has but in turn end up sweeping floors or working manual labor because it’s hard to grasp a new language as an adult. I know if circumstances were different for me and something forced me to have to learn a new language at my age, I might resign myself to doing a job that didn’t require me to interact too much with non-english speakers. I took 3 years of Spanish in high school and I would still struggle on the streets of Oaxaca or Mexicali or Madrid, let alone having to learn such a complex language as English. I try to put myself in the shoes of the immigrant…I’m born and raised on the West Coast of the U.S. and suddenly opportunity lies in China, would I be able to learn Cantonese or would I take a job lifting heavy things in order to avoid conversation?

I’m not telling you how to think or where to land on the immigration field, I’m just asking you to educate yourself and go beyond what your favorite or least favorite politician, comedian or network anchor says and figure out for yourself how it effects you, your town, your country.

I thought about putting a list of organizations that are on both sides of the immigration debate, but a simple Google search will get you what you want. Let me know what you learn.


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