Immigration—The American Way

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” -Emma Lazarus
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” -Emma Lazarus

The recent presidential attempt to drastically reconstruct immigration standards seriously violates basic American principles. It must be vigorously opposed by all of those who believe the spirit of our immigration is central to making this nation great.

I opposed Trump’s candidacy, but seeking to understand what the Electoral College saw in him that I missed, I initially supported his presidency, and his initial address to Congress gave me great hope. But having observed presidents since Roosevelt, I have been stunned by his conduct in office. Worse, Trump’s cold-blooded immigration restrictions defy our democratic principles, essentially treating America like a business operation.

He wants to cut immigration in half, admit people based on “merit evaluations” such as English proficiency, job performance, achievements, etc. Trump’s idea of “Making America Great” apparently is selecting talent, and essentially building a meritocracy or oligarchy, as if this will solve America’s problems.

The picture I get is Trump developing America like a gated community that keeps the riff-raff out and allows those within the gates to enjoy success and pleasure. Is that what has made America great?

The notion directly conflicts with the democracy our forefathers pledged—and many sacrificed “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor” to establish: a nation where all individuals are valued, regardless of their situation.

To support Trump’s immigration change, his staff is trying to discredit Emma Lazarus’s Statue of Liberty words — “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free” — by pointing out her poem was added to “The Colossus” after it was erected.

So what? Was it significant that Lincoln’s Gettysburg address happened after the battle of Gettysburg? The truth is, both Lincoln’s and Lazarus’s words are proudly respected by Americans today because they express deeper values in our American spirit, values we cherish.

In Lazarus’s words, I believe the value is rooted in our love for the underdog and also for second chances. One study asked 100 fans whom they would root for in a game where one team was heavily favored. 81% chose the underdog.

I say we owe this deep national attitude to our founding fathers. Their guiding belief that each of us is important has led us to achieve and live lives others didn’t dare to even dream about. This belief gave birth to America’s “rugged individual” character trait and a powerful entrepreneurial ethic that has inspired our initiative and creativity.

An integral part of this is the redemption of second chances, earned by humility, courage and effort. As the great coach Vince Lombardi said, “The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory.”

Another disturbing inference of Trump’s English proficiency requirement is its obvious favor of Anglo-Saxons. That the U.S. is not a White nation was settled in a bloody 19th century civil war. Today, Whites have become a minority.

To serve America, we need to serve diversity, a natural consequence of our founding principles and perhaps the major factor in America’s growth. Nearly half of our 1,000 major corporations today were founded by 1st or 2nd generation immigrants.

Of course we want standards for immigration, but those standards should be consistent with the principles that made this a great nation. We need to recognize America’s true source of greatness: our founding principles.

As we think of our own lives, of what we accomplished beyond anything we ever expected, of the second chances we received, let’s make sure our immigration standards reflect our deeper American values and character.

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