A brass placard posted on the inside of the base of the Statue of Liberty portrays a quote from Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, “The New Colossus.” It reads as follows: “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.”
The golden door was Ellis Island located under the shadow of “The New Colossus,” the Statue of Liberty. More than 12 million immigrants from all over the world were processed through this “Golden Door” from 1892 through 1954 en route to becoming citizens of the United States of America. Their journey was not one of instant gratification, however. The immigration process took time. These immigrants were not undocumented, unvetted migrants.
My father’s family made their epic journey through Ellis Island in 1920. My grandfather Ole first had a dream to bring his family to America from Norway in 1912. He got permission in 1914 for himself to immigrate at the start of World War I and made the journey by steamship and train to Washington State where he worked at manual labor to save money to bring his wife and four sons to the US. Ole bought some land, cut and sold the timber, cleared the stumps using oxen, built a small house and outhouse, dug a well and created a small working, self-sustaining farm with no plumbing or electricity.
Ole traveled back to Norway in 1918 at the end of the war after four years of working in the US and finally got permission to bring his family to America in 1920, traveling in steerage (third class) on board the Norwegian steamship Stavangerfjord. One of Ole’s sons was my father, Arthur, who obtained his citizenship in 1929 (nine years after his arrival), graduated from college, got a master’s degree, became a scientist and served with distinction as an Army OSS officer and leader of men in combat during World War ll.
My father’s family had to document who they were and when and where they were born, show that they were law-abiding citizens capable of supporting themselves and that they would not be a financial burden to society. They had to go through a lengthy immigration process, they were not undocumented migrants.
But for now, I will dismiss the above narration and present what I perceive to be a liberal take on Emma Lazarus’ sonnet as it applies to our current immigration and migration problems.
I start with former President Obama’s “Dreamers” vision facilitating open borders for aliens and amnesty for those who entered the US illegally. His policies resulted in uncounted thousands of undocumented people pouring across our borders and encouraged thousands more to do the same.
Migrants who have entered the US illegally over time number in the millions. Liberals have embraced this concept and have aided and abetted the process by establishing sanctuary cities in liberal strongholds where they shelter illegals and work openly against immigration agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The concept coming from the liberal left is to apply Emma’s sonnet literally and to open our borders to free access, giving all alien migrants the right to come into our country whenever and wherever they please and to fulfill their dream with or without due process.
If Emma’s sonnet is embraced liberally, it must be embraced in its entirety. The problem is much, much larger than the crisis at our Southern Border. The problem is global. There are at least a billion destitute people among the seven billion souls on this planet.
Most of them are in much greater need than the Central Americans trying to force their way across our borders. If it is true, as liberals claim, that it is their right to come to the United States and it is our humanitarian obligation to take them in, the same green light must be given to the oppressed and destitute peoples of the world. We cannot favor any cultural group of people over any other group.
We must, therefore, give the peoples of the world the same privilege as the Central Americans. Fortunately, former President Obama set up a modus operandi for us. He facilitated thousands of refugees from Iraq and Syria, mostly Muslims, to be airlifted directly into our interior airports bypassing normal immigration processes.
We can recruit him to organize and spearhead a similar operation. To limit open migration by not offering the same privilege to all peoples of all races and ethnic backgrounds from all corners of the earth smacks of bias, discrimination and racism.
In the current border debates, liberal thinking has not gone beyond its application to Hispanic migrants in general and to the caravans arriving at our borders. That must change. Hundreds of millions of people who are destitute or oppressed or simply want a better life in Africa, Asia, South America or anywhere else on the planet must be provided transport into the United States.
They do not have to be vetted because liberal policies seek to grant amnesty to the millions of unvetted migrants who have already entered the US illegally through our porous borders.
We as US citizens, by professed liberal standards, are obligated to assimilate the cultures and languages of the of the world, discarding the obsolete “uniqueness” of America’s past and instead seek guidance from the UN and from the multi-cultural masses that will overwhelm our current population.
Does Emma’s sonnet apply to all or just to those whom it is politically expedient to help? Liberally speaking, it should apply to everyone from anywhere on our planet!
The concept of free unvetted access into our country opens the doors wide to unencumbered entry for criminals, drug trafficking, human trafficking, smugglers, terrorists and anyone who would want to change or overthrow our constitutional form of government. Unvetted entry at will should be a red flag warning of the obvious danger and threat to our people.
Incredibly, liberals still favor unsecured borders and amnesty for all, setting a dangerous modus and precedent for the world to embrace. Liberal opposition to any hindrance to free-flowing illegal migration into the US is made clear by their willingness to shut down the government rather than approve funds to construct a physical barrier to migrant access.
Undocumented illegals breaking through or climbing over fences and walls or of migrants streaming through the unsecured sections of our borders are encouraged by liberals rather than opposed. This is proven by the establishment in liberal strongholds of sanctuary cities to hide and protect illegals from immigration authorities.
I will now venture out of this liberal scenario and go back to a workable solution. Legal immigration is a vetted process, but open undocumented migration with sanctuary city protection becomes an unmanageable loose cannon, even allowing an untold number of dangerous people freedom to establish a base for operations within the US for any illicit activity they may desire.
If people from Mexico and Central America are encouraged and allowed to come as they please whenever they please and on their own terms, the world must be invited to pour over our borders as well by merely saying, “I want a better life.”
If we apply the liberal modus equally to the world, we will be flooded with uncountable hundreds of millions of migrants and will in the future become a footnote in history as a once great nation that became a disconnected tower of babel that collapsed under its own folly.
Or we can control who comes in on our own terms vetted in an orderly manner beneficial to both the immigrants and our own citizens. My father’s family became legal naturalized citizens as a result of unbending determination and hard work under a lengthy process without requiring financial assistance from anyone.
George Brunstad is a Kapaa resident. He is a former U.S. Air Force B-52 pilot, airline captain, air show pilot, former world champion open-water swimmer, oldest to swim the English Channel at age 70 in 2004, made the Guinness Book of World Records and raised $55k to start a school, Center of Hope Haiti, now up and running with 115 children in grades one through eight.