On an island in the waters off New York, is a giant statue inscribed with the immortal words of Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
It—the Statue of Liberty—is visited each year by three million American tourists who often weep when they read those words.
In the months ahead, those same tourists, by their political inaction, will have reason to regard themselves as unworthy hypocrites.
Our president, in denying asylum to refugees clustered along the border between Mexico and the United States, has proclaimed that the United States—a country of 328 million people—is “full,” and not a single one of those would-be immigrants can come in.
A much smaller country, like Germany, has accepted more than a hundred thousand Syrian refugees, but we haven’t space for much fewer.
We turn our backs on people and their children suffering hardship, terror, and injury in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Instead of clamoring for a change in policy, we board sightseeing boats taking us to visit the Statue of Liberty as tourists.
I am the child of two penniless immigrants who saw that statue when they sailed here in a more tolerant era.
They, two refugees from similar conditions, proceeded to enrich this nation by their presence and work.
And I say: Of course we have the space for a few thousand suffering people from Central America.
Or are we hypocrites who would prefer to stare up as tourists at the words of Emma Lazarus: “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door”?