Immigrants have always been welcome here
By MADHU SRIDHAR
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the quote from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet New Colossus mounted on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, encompasses what America is all about: a welcoming nation that imparts compassion and hope to folks from any corner of the world.
Famines, wars, natural disaster, plagues, poverty, economic necessity, political oppression are some of the reasons for migration. Many bravely risk their lives and go through extreme difficulties, sustained only by the hope that somehow they will find a better life.
Our country is built by immigrants and children of immigrants from the four corners of the globe who played a leading role in building what has become the most prosperous nation in the history of the world. Our continuous aspiration to live up to the highest ideals of the human race is what makes America great.
Today immigration is a hot-button issue, and living in Texas, a border state, we are in the center of that national debate. There is no denying that we need a better immigration policy to address the multitude of challenges pertaining to illegal immigration like border violence, the supply of jobs for undocumented workers, and substandard wages for migrant workers. We must also expedite legal immigration, tighten border security and figure out how to treat the millions of undocumented immigrants who are already here.
However, to achieve this we, as a nation, cannot compromise our values and stoop so low as to accept a “zero tolerance" policy that has resulted in the separation of more than 2,000 children from their parents. Most of them were fleeing violence, persecution or economic collapse in their home countries. How inhumane and cold-hearted is it to separate these young children from their parents and put them in cages?
Do we really need harsh immigration policies that evoke fear like the raids conducted by ICE to hunt down out-of-status individuals and their families? Can’t we replace ICE with something that reflects our morality and that works?
In our attempt to address these issues, we must not forget our ideals, our compassion and our humanity. As individuals and as a nation we need to feel proud of who we are and what we stand for.
As the debate over immigration reform heats up, we would do well to remember that America has always been a place of freedom and refuge from poverty, persecution and much more.
That is, after all, what we celebrate on Independence Day.
I want to share the following from President Ronald Regan:
“I received a letter just before I left office from a man. I don’t know why he chose to write it, but I’m glad he did. He wrote that you can go to live in France, but you can’t become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Italy, but you can’t become a German, an Italian. He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan and other countries. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American.”
As a first-generation immigrant and a proud American, I wish you Happy 4th of July!