Dwight A. Moody
The Statue of Liberty rises three hundred five feet one inch above the ground of the island on which it sits in New York Harbor. Since 1886, it has held aloft the light that has been a beacon of hope to millions of people around the world, including the immigrants who entered this country through Ellis Island, also in the harbor.
Mostly they were Europeans that century, fleeing famine, death, disease and war–the famous four horsemen of the apocalypse. They came from Ireland and Scotland, France and Germany, Poland and Italy and took up residence in the great cities of the industrial revolution: Boston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis.
To signal our intent to these immigrants, the words of the poet were affixed to the base of Miss Liberty in the first decade of the next century, in 1906, words that called “her name
Mother of Exiles” and established our spirit of hospitality: “From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome.” That century brought to humanity two world wars, the flu pandemic, the great depression, the holocaust, and the gulags. The throngs seeking the solace of Miss Liberty included not only Europeans but increasingly Asians who flooded not only New York but also the West Coast from Seattle to San Diego. We understood the “sea-washed, sunset gates” of which the poet wrote to include those on both shores of our generous land, or to quote the prayerful hymn, “from sea to shining sea.”
Neither the designer (Bartholdi) nor the builder (Eiffel), neither the poet (Lazarus) nor the president (Cleveland) could envision the 360 degree invitation Miss Liberty issued to the world. They came from every direction, fleeing every danger and disaster. And to all, her promise remained the same: “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Now, and for the last few decades, those seeking that golden door have come from the south, from central and south America, from the islands of the Caribbean. They have sought that golden door through Miami and San Diego and especially along the Rio Grande into Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Not everybody is happy with the entry of these people: and to be fair, immigration all along has been subject to pushback, beginning with the resistance of the original inhabitants of our land who resented the appearance of Europeans. Now the golden door language of Miss Liberty is being supplanted by the steel wall promise of a national leader. I am among those who think this political rhetoric is more dangerous to American values than any or all of the immigrants who are knocking at our southern door.
To counter this moral insurgency why don’t we just move Miss Liberty from New York to Texas? Why don’t we find a place in Galveston Bay or San Diego Bay or any one of the large lakes that interrupt the Mexican-American border, or even Big Ben National Park seven hours drive west of San Antonio? Why don’t we let her stand there for a century or two? What about moving inland to McAllen where dozens a children a day have been separated from their parents? or El Paso, or even Tijuana?
Any of these places offer a fresh opportunity for the people of the United States to announce to our southern neighbors that which has always been our national gospel: “Dadme tus cansados, tus pobres, Tus masas amontonadas gimiendo por respirar libres, Los despreciados de tus congestionadas costas. Enviadme a estos, los desposeidos, basura de la tempestad. Levanto mi lámpara al lado de la puerta dorada!”
It is the door of freedom, opportunity, and safety. It is the golden door of justice and liberty, even for our Latina neighbors.