Welcoming Immigrant Kids to America

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The Statue of Liberty (Photo by G36)

Last week, I found myself in the middle of New York Harbor on a boat, looking up at the Statue of Liberty and reveling in her majesty. I marveled at the beauty of her significance, her sheer size and the extraordinary talent and effort it took to create such an epic figure. But most importantly, I remembered the beauty of the words, called “The New Colossus,” etched into the pedestal upon which she stands, a sentinel for all those who see the U.S. as a beacon for the American Dream and hope for their future.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Poem on the Pedestal
The Poem on the Pedestal

That Emma Lazarus poem was supposed to embody the spirit of the U.S., the land of open arms; the land of immigrant dreams; the land where we all came from somewhere else; the land of dreams that come true. We are the Mother of Exiles. Unless you are a Republican politician, then the message is Get The Fuck Out Of My Country.

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The U.S., by and large, is a welcoming nation. New Amsterdam was settled by the Dutch as a trading colony — capitalism, pure and simple. We didn’t steal the land. We bought it from the Lenape Indians. Even then New York was the capital of capitalism.

People from all over the world came to this new city, from Muslims who settled on Washington Street in lower Manhattan to Jews escaping persecution.

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The Daily Republican -(Illinois) – May 7, 1873
The (Illinois) Daily Republican, May 7, 1873

For hundreds of years people who wanted the freedom to pursue cold hard cash, or simply to escape persecution or the threat of death for their religious beliefs, came here to be left in peace. Yet there has always been a bit of a dark side to our open-arms mythology. Americans were especially cruel to those of German, Irish, Italian, Polish or, really, any non-Anglo-Saxon or Dutch descendent.

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And yes, we were insatiable in our lust for free labor supplied by slaves dragged here against their will. They were not immigrants; they were cargo.

Immigrants built this country with their hard work and desire to create better lives for their children. The dark, steamy, dirty, crowded tenements of the Lower East Side were, quite frankly, closer to the pits at the bottom of hell than a step towards the American Dream. This record of the Census Bureau shows the residents of 97 Orchard Street living in crushingly crowded conditions. Yet, thousands came each year, desperate for a better life. We let themSCAoP_MC9_BX10_016hr in.

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Fast forward to 2014 and all we are hearing are politicians screaming to shut the door, build a wall (looking at you Old Man McCain), and send these criminals home. What shifted? What changed? You see, these immigrants are brown, therefore they are not immigrants, but illegals. They are not striving to give their families a leg up in the world, but “children with calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” Nice.

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These children are being sent to the U.S. to escape extreme violence at home. The journey the parents are sending their children on is fraught with danger and death even before they reach the haven that is Rick Perry’s fiefdom.

Certainly I hope they stop coming because we probably will have more deaths as the hot weather continues,” says U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX). “It’s not just the heat that could kill them but there are other dangers. Officials at Lackland Air Force Base told us that one-third of young girls that come across — and they were just like little babies; 10, 11, 14 years of age. That about one-third of them get raped and/or abused on the way here.

These little girls and boys did not choose to come here, but were sent by parents desperate to get them to a safe place. They were sent on this perilous journey to escape the violence and danger in their home countries. According to the L.A. Times, there is a 112% increase of children under 12 who are entering into the U.S., via the Mexico border, from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The outcry at the stream of brown people coming into Texas recently has sent the GOP into a complete meltdown. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) has the great idea of shooting the kids. Seriously, he has suggested we whip out all those assault rifles we are so damn proud of and just slaughter every child who dares cross that border without an invitation.

Even with $3.7 billion that’s requested, there’s no way for what’s being called for is going to stop the invasion that’s occurring. That’s why I’m hoping that my governor will utilize Article 1, Section 10, that allows a state that is being invaded — in our case more than twice as many just in recent months, more than twice as many than invaded France on D-Day with a doubling of that coming en route, on their way here now under Article 1, Section 10, the state of Texas would appear to have the right, not only to use whatever means, whether it’s troops, even using ships of war, even exacting a tax on interstate commerce that wouldn’t normally be allowed to have or utilize, they’d be entitled in order to pay to stop the invasion.

Immigrant rights march for amnesty in downtown Los Angeles, California on May Day, 2006. (Photo by Jonathan McIntosh)
Immigrant rights march in L.A. (Photo: Jonathan McIntosh)

Yes, Louie wants to kill child invaders (see how he changed illegal to invaders?) because the Constitution says we can. There are more children invading the U.S. than men who invaded France on D-Day. Excellent comparison, right on point! This insane thinking then leads to this knucklehead who mistook a bus full of kids going to the YMCA, for dirty illegal kids invading Arizona. Oh and of course, he is an Arizona Republican running for office.

When politicians show their animosity towards children because they come from south of the border, it makes it easier for the average citizen to direct their fear and anger towards little kids. Enter the citizen militia with guns drawn. Wait, who deputized these assholes into a militia?

The group with the catchy name Secure Our Border – Laredo, says:

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“This is not a ‘go-in-guns-blazing’ kind of thing,” said spokeswoman Denice Freeman. “This will be handled with the utmost professionalism and security and safety for everyone involved.” But a 21-minute video that was apparently posted June 14 by Davis encourages militia members to threaten suspected illegal immigrants to secure the border. “You see an illegal,” Davis says in the video. “You point your gun dead at him, right between his eyes, and you say, ‘Get back across the border or you will be shot.’”

I understand there is a real problem with our broken immigration system. And I do realize that solving it will take creative thinking and the acceptance that immigration is actually very beneficial to our economy.  Our elected officials need to realize that immigrants are not taking our jobs because prissy Americans don’t want to pick vegetables or fruit under a blazing sun, clean hotel toilets, be a day laborer or wash dishes for 10 hours in a restaurant. They need to understand that all parents want their kids to live safely without threat of rape and violence. Once Congress understands that this country is made better because of all the colors and backgrounds that have come here we can begin the hard work to create a generation of new citizens. We can start by opening our hearts to the scared, hurt, alone and frightened kids in warehouses at our border.