Sunday, June 24, 2007

Immigration debate? Huh? Has there been an immigration debate going on? (Um, has anybody broken the news to poor old Emma Lazarus?)


The Staten Island Ferry chugs past Liberty Island in New York Harbor.

"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-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

--from "The New Colossus," by Emma Lazarus

I was writing to a friend on another subject entirely, and in the course of my rambling, I had to dig out these famous--or perhaps once-famous?--lines by Emma Lazarus.

I haven't been to the Statue of Liberty since I-don't-know-when, but I see it semi-frequently.

Sometimes I venture down to the Battery, the lower tip of Manhattan Island, just to look out on New York Harbor. When you look out on the harbor, the eye is drawn quickly to the Statue.

A few times a year it's not enough for me to look out on the harbor, I have to get out on it. So I take my version of an ocean voyage: the Staten Island Ferry trip to Staten Island and back, which gives you a sort of drive-by of the Statue. (The trip also suits my budgetary preferences. You used to pay a quarter in one direction only. Now it's totally free.)

A bunch of years ago, after the renovated Ellis Island reception hall was opened to the public, I took the ferry there. The same ferry made a circuit of Ellis and Liberty Islands, but I hadn't left myself that much time, and chose to spend it all on Ellis. I have to confess that what resonated most vividly for me was the episode of the difficult arrival of little Vito Andolini (about to become Vito Corleone) from Sicily in Godfather II.

Nevertheless, I don't have to visit the Statue to think of its famous poetic inscription. I admit that I looked it up to be sure I had it right, but I would have come pretty close if I'd quoted it from memory.

But then, looking at the words on-screen in front of me, I suddenly realized that I can explain why I feel so isolated from what has recently passed for a "debate" on immigration: I haven't heard anybody quote these lines.

We do all know that we Americans are all immigrants here, don't we? I suppose you could argue, based on the submoronic ignorance of Tom Tancredo and the other anti-immigration loonies, that the immigration thing hasn't worked out as well as we like to pretend. Some of the "wretched refuse" still sounds pretty wretched.

As a point of curiosity, does anyone know whether Twitty Tom and the other hate-spewing xenophobes have ever visited the Statue of Liberty? Or ever heard of the Statue of Liberty? For that matter, the proponents of the supposed immigration "reform" bill don't seem to get it either. They seem mostly interested in immigrants as a ready source of cheap labor--a far cry from the promise and hope of the Statue of Liberty.

It used to stand for something. It used to stand for, you know, the idea of America. If somebody wants to talk about that, give me a holler.

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At 7:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We do all know that we Americans are all immigrants here, don't we?"

Actually, we're not. I was born here. Unless you're including everybody whose ancestors moved here from elsewhere, but if you push that one far enough, we're all, even the "native Americans", immigrants from southern Africa.

The question that never gets asked is, "How many people can this country accomodate comfortably?" At 300 million and counting, I suspect we're pushing the limits. The Colorado River which supplies water and power to the cities of the Southwest is a seasonal trickle by the time it reaches the Gulf of California. The Ogallala Aquifer that supplies so much of the water that irrigates the plains states is being dangerously depleted. We Californians are paving over the finest farmland in the world to accomodate suburban sprawl that results in 3 hour commutes.

How many more people can we safely accomodate? I don't know, and I don't hear it being brought up in this discussion.

Emma Lazarus's words were written at a time when this country looked empty to the European immigrants who came to a continent whose inhabitants had been killed off by European diseases before settlement had begun in ernest. Perhaps we should rethink it.

Right now the debate seems limited to, on one side, nativists who fear people of other colors and cultures, and on the other, naive liberals who are ready to welcome all comers. And the arguments of both sides are being used by cynical busnessmen who are creating an underclass of easily exploitable cheap labor.

Let me ask. How many people do you think this country can comfortably support? And who your work, please. Let me know how you reached your conclusion.

At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering potable water, I think the country has about reached its limits. Our foreign policies are screwed up. We are more inteerested in protecting our oil supplies than in assisting other countries to lift up their populations. The last time I looked, the largest amount of foreign aid was going to Israel, which uses it to build settlements in what is supposed to be land for Palestinians. We oppose officials elected democratically in other nations because they don't agree with Bush. This is a sad and dangerous time.

I wish I had more time this morning to communicate on this topic because what is being done to illegals from Mexico is unjust, and I agee with DWT, the intent is to keep it that way.

At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me add, Howie, that I really appreciate your work here, and as a 40 year music professional, I appreciate your work there, as well.

My problem with the immigration debate is that it seems limited to tribal positions on the right and left, and that everyone's thinking is inside a couple of very tight little boxes.

Do we open the borders to all comers, or do we set limits? And if we set limits, what criteria do we use in selection?

I'll put my cards on the table. I think we need to control our borders. And I'm all for amnesty for the people who have made it in so far. Our open southern border represents an attractive nuisance, and you really can't blame people for crossing it in search of a better life. Those 12 million illegals are here because they have been lured here as a source of cheap, exploitable labor, by people who claim to be offering "jobs that Americans won't do". What they're actually offering are substandard wages and intolerable conditions. Ameiricans will do any job available if the wages are worth the time.

So my position is to offer citizenship to all who have made it in, filtering, of course for criminals, and then we need to get control of our borders and have an honest discussion of who we want here, and how many.

At 7:16 PM, Blogger said...

Groan. More paranoia about future "unsustainable population". I can understand abortionists talking like that; they're paid well for protecting us from it! But who else actually lives as if they believe it? Have you seen evidence of that anywhere? Is the world poorer
now than it was 100 years ago? Cities have ghettos, but not because of density;
but rather because of corrupt government and unfair economic practices. Yet even ghettos, to this day, attract poor people from the countryside who anticipate a greater chance of employment where the population is denser!

To this day, our most rural land is becoming less and less populated as its people move to densely populated cities faster than people are leaving cities for the countryside.
And even most of those moving out of town are careful to stay within commuting distance of their city jobs! Even most of those moving to very rural areas are staying in touch with the financial opportunities of population density through internet business, or are retiring on incomes earned in population centers! Even farmers far from cities reap the blessings of population centers in the form of generous tax subsidies! The number of people actually living off the land, not dependent upon population centers, and even if you include full time farmers, has been steadily declining for two centuries.
Running out of water? And that is why you want to turn off the Torch of Freedom for immigrants willing to come to states where there IS water? Put on your thinking caps! Get in touch with America's roots. They're inspiring, even if Tancredo goes nuts when someone tries to quote Emma Lazarus or the Bible.
www.Saltshaker.US, click on immigration.


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