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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

"Someone On Board Knows English"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's comments on immigration.

CNN reports on an immigration exchange between reporter Jim Acosta and White House aide Stephen Miller:
"The Statue of Liberty says, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.' It doesn't say anything about speaking English or being a computer programmer," Acosta said. "Aren't you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you're telling them that you have to speak English?"

Miller responded that as a requirement to be naturalized, "you have to speak English," and continued, "so the notion that speaking English wouldn't be a part of immigration systems would be very ahistorical."
He went on: "Secondly, I don't want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you're referring to was added later (and) is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty."
Lazarus originally wrote the sonnet, entitled "The New Colossus," to raise funds for the statue's pedestal in 1883. The sculpture itself, which sits in the New York Harbor and was visible on the path to the immigration checkpoint at Ellis Island, was a gift from France to the US.
Ronald Reagan, October 28, 1985
Just a few hundred yards away, there's a second island, Ellis Island. Between 1892 and 1954, nearly 17 million immigrants to the New World passed through the Ellis Island checkpoint. Most immigrants moved through the checkpoint in a few hours to begin their new lives in America and freedom. And I like to picture the scene as a boatload of immigrants leaving Ellis Island for New York, they pass Miss Liberty and crowd the rails to gaze. Someone on board knows English, he reads and translates the inscription that the statue bears, words that have proclaimed the meaning of America for millions of immigrants, for shiploads of returning soldiers in two great wars, for every family that has ever visited that glorious statue. And those words: "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." Well, many of those immigrants remain at the rails until Miss Liberty is lost in the fog. It would be no surprise if some shed tears of joy.