“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
This is the quote engraved on the Statue of Liberty from “The New Colossus” by American poet Emma Lazarus.
This used to be the sentiment that made the United States of America such an incredible land. Perhaps my title is a bit extreme, but the current attitude towards the arrival of new peoples into our country has been quite negative and definitely not as welcoming as the Statue of Liberty leads immigrants to believe. Honig’s explanation on the myth of immigrant America is quite fascinating, and I feel it really captures modern views on immigration.
Speaking economically, there is this concept of the “American Dream”, where the US provides the soil of opportunity for anyone to come, work hard, and improve their standard of living through the capitalistic economic structure. There’s the simple attitude that hard work directly correlates with one’s wealth and achievement, this is the belief in meritocracy. This appealing ideal reached out to people across the globe, inspiring people to come to the US in hopes for a fresh start and a new life. But recently America’s open arms have been clenched into fists, as a negative attitude has emerged, where the immigrant is viewed as a threat to current citizens. The new idea is that these new immigrants are stealing jobs from current citizens, and many people are upset about that. It is quite ironic because people will boast of capitalism, yet get upset when it doesn’t work in their favor. This anger has been most recently directed at people of Mexican dissent taking many unskilled labor jobs down south. This idea of meritocracy fades as the new White American attitude grips the conservative right, driving away the ideals of the “American dream”. The Trump administration fuels this fire by blaming the Mexican people for this trouble with the scapegoat tactics described by Honig. The Mexicans aren’t the only people this administration has targeted. The travel ban that they crafted was geared to prevent refugees and specifically Muslims from entering the country, which also ironically goes against the values America claims to stand for. The current attitude for immigration seems to welcome anyone who fits a specific mold of Western ideals and religion, and is disapproves of anything different. There still lies racial tension within our country as well, which doesn’t help the case of the melting pot culture the US claims to have. We are more of a boiling pot of conflict and anger towards diversity.
I hope this attitude can change, and I know there is a large population of people who are working to bring better change to the US, but the current state is quite concerning. Even at America’s “best” there was still racial conflict between the current population and immigrants moving in. There will always need to be improvement because perfection is inhuman. It would be great if we could become the democracy that pays equal respect to all rational beings, we could become the democracy and country that would make Benhabib proud.