In 1883, Emma Lazarus, a high society New York poet and the descendant of Jewish immigrants, was asked to compose a sonnet whose more poignant words would be placed on the base of the Statue of Liberty during the dedication of Lady Liberty three years later — then quickly forgotten.
Decades later, several verses from her work, “The New Colossus,” would come to define America’s vision of liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddles masses yearning to breathe free.”
But now, over a century later, the words have served as a rally cry for Americans, both angry and disappointed by the policies and attitudes embraced by President Donald Trump toward immigrants. And it’s an about face for a country that has long sought to position itself on the global stage as one proud that the basis of its strength rests in its diversity.
However, if this is really the case, why then did the U.S. government ignore a court-ordered deadline to reunite families separated due to Trump’s newly-heralded “zero tolerance policy,” clearly designed to discourage the illegal immigration of people with brown skin and for whom Spanish serves as their first language? Why haven’t we heard anything about the government failing to meet the deadline or what they plan to do to reunite children, some still too young to say their names, use the bathroom on their own accord or too limited by language to be able to identify their parents or the towns in which their families previously resided.
News feeds have focused on the alleged unscrupulous actions committed by those once in good favor with the president but who now face charges that could send them to jail for a very long time. The development of nuclear warheads in countries like China, Iraq or North Korea have similarly made the headlines with regularity as has everything Russia.
But for 711 children still separated from their government, their futures appear to be far from bright. The government admits that some of their parents have either already been deported to their native countries, primarily Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador from which they had hoped to escape unbelievable examples of violence, or that the whereabouts of the children’s parents remain unknown.
Our leaders have marched down our country’s streets, following a president whose sudden meanderings seem more fitting for the Pied Piper of Hamlin than the so-called “leader of the free world.” But then, perhaps America no longer finds it beneficial to be concerned with the all of the world’s “tired and poor” — only a select few.
History will not favor us when future generations review our past.