Birthday of the New Colossus

October 28, 2011 | 51 comments
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0---Statue of LibertyThe New York Public Library posted on Facebook this morning that today is the 125th anniversary of  the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. While intended and generally thought of as an icon of freedom, its place in New York harbor, through which much immigration to the United States has passed, has meant that it is also considered a symbol of immigration.

That role was memorialized even before the statue’s dedication, in a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus, engraved on a bronze plaque that was mounted inside the monument itself in 1903. [The last 5 lines or so of the sonnet are familiar to most Americans.]:

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The New Colossus

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!”

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Just 18 years later Congress started restricting immigration, and in the ensuing decades, U.S. immigration law has become increasingly restrictive. Where once immigration restrictions were based on racial issues, favoring northern Europeans over others, now our restrictions are based on class, favoring the wealthy and well-educated over the “tired, poor, huddled masses” that Lazarus said the statue welcomed.

In short, our immigration law has gradually made a mockery of this symbol. We do not welcome, instead we have become yet another land with “storied pomp.” Our immigration laws seek not the poor, but the wealthy and educated. Worse, our actions towards many immigrants restrict freedom instead of promoting it.

Isn’t it time to change the law?

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51 Responses to Birthday of the New Colossus

  1. Jax on October 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    I heard this morning that it was Lady Liberty’s 25th. Glad to see a post about it. Thanks Kent.

    But rather than just accepting the tired and poor, couldn’t we work out a swap? We send away the pompous and proud in exchange for those “yearning to breath free”?

  2. chris on October 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    There are a lot more laws besides immigration that need some mighty changing.

    Immigration, criminal justice, welfare, etc. We’ve taken a simple machine that relied on freedom and hard work and thought we could design it better by placing various gears and sprockets inside to complicate things and “make it better”. Take out one of those gears and you’ll find the rest of the machine stops working and is extremely difficult to fix.

    I’m not saying that we need to keep all these “gears” (laws & programs) which needlessly complicate things, but I’m afraid that by opening the doors of immigration and keeping everything else the same we’d be headed for ruin. Of course, we’re headed for ruin anyway unless we can sort ourselves out of this mess by returning to the principles that made America great. We didn’t legislate, subsidize, penalize, and criminalize ourselves to greatness — even though these things are always necessary and present to some degree.

  3. Doug Gould on October 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Absolutely, Kent. Not only should we change the immigration laws back in line with what the Statue of Liberty symbolizes, but we should remember, as Americans, to show respect and honor to the “homeless and tempest-tost” that have come here seeking refuge. I have in mind, in particular, the Jews who some (anti-) “Americans” would send away from our shores. The Jews would be truly homeless if some of the Occupy Wall Street protesters had their way. Glenn Beck made a passionate appeal this past week in favor of the Jews, quoting Emma Lazarus’s poem. He cited a Jew-basher as saying we should send all Jews to Madagascar in response to Glenn’s poignant query about where we should send them if we were to export them from our shores. They truly have no home where they’re welcome other than America and Israel (which is under great threat of annihilation) and heaven knows how truly tempest-tost they have been over the centuries. America is a land of liberty, yes, and a land of free speech. But we must extend love to the downtrodden, not hate; or, the perhaps the hate-mongers should go somewhere else and leave America in peace.

  4. Tim on October 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Not sure what OWS has to do with this, and not sure what Jews have to do with this–in any case, well over a million Jews currently live in Europe. And, while many in the U.S. want to get rid of Hispanics, and many in Europe want to get rid of Muslims, Jewish populations in both places don’t face much (if any) discrimination.

    My great-grandfather, who I was close to until he passed away when I was a teenager, immigrated from Germany in the early 20th century. Many other ancestors came over in the second half of the 19th century. I’ll always be grateful that immigration laws allowed my great-grandfather and my other ancestors into the U.S. And I’m saddened that our country no longer opens its doors wide to immigrants.

  5. Kent Larsen on October 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Wow, isn’t everyone trying to turn this their own way!

    For this post, lets stick to immigration, not other laws that need changing, Chris (2).

    And Doug (3), I agree with Tim (4), you’re bringing in Glenn Beck and OWS when it really doesn’t have much to do with this — especially given Beck’s very selective attitude towards immigration issues. His observations regarding the Jews might be worth something if there was any credible threat to Jews.

  6. Mark B. on October 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Actually, Kent, the immigration laws favor the lucky–those lucky enough to have qualifying family members in the U.S. who can petition for them, and those lucky enough to live in countries close enough that they can travel to our borders and come across without a passport or visa.

    To some extent luck follows the wealthy–those who are sufficiently well-off that they can afford to travel on exchange programs to the U.S., for example, end up being lucky enough to fall in love and marry an American.

    Among other attempts to change the laws (few of which have even a ghost of a chance of being enacted) are some that would favor the skilled and the educated above those with family ties–ignoring the fact that ultimately people want to be “home” and family is at the root of what defines home, and also ignoring the fact that there is still a substantial need for the kind of back-breaking, hard, thankless labor of the kind that historically has been provided by immigrants.

  7. Bob on October 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Six of ten houses nearest to me have immigrant families in them (two latino). I have not given up hope of an open door.

  8. Alison Moore Smith on October 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Happy 125th, Lady Liberty. :)

    I’m pretty much an open-borders person ideologically. But in practice, our system makes that problematic. (Yea, you can call that a “selective attitude towards immigration.”)

    The biggest problem I see with inviting any/all to become a “member” of any group is how to sustain the group. It’s a numbers game. As long as every US citizen is “entitled” to more and more and more, calling all the “huddled masses” to join the group — with no criteria whatsoever — can bring it down.

    The church is a pretty good example. Everyone is invited to join. We help a lot of people. We teach self-reliance and productivity and efficiency. And we even turn some away (like my brother and the family in my ward (I wrote about in a comment a few weeks ago)), who use the church for benefit without contributing as able.

    If you want to change the immigration laws, change the entitlement laws. I’d be happy to live amongst a massive number of new “pioneers.” Not so happy to live amongst a massive new number of people who think “free” stuff (from “Obama’s stash”?) is awesome.

    Unless you are giving away every penny you make above about $7,000 per year, you agree with me — at least in practice. :)

  9. Tiffany W. on October 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Amen!

  10. Sarah Familia on October 28, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Thank you for this post. Assimilating immigrants may be a “numbers game,” but every one of those numbers is a human being, often one whose life is immeasurably less privileged than ours. I found it very interesting that when Arizona was passing its draconion immigration bill, Utah was trying to ease the terrible toll that current immigration policies take on families with the Utah Compact (with full support from the Church).

    I recently wrote about looking at immigration from both sides of the fence: http://casteluzzo.com/2011/04/19/closing-the-golden-door

  11. Naismith on October 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    “The biggest problem I see with inviting any/all to become a “member” of any group is how to sustain the group.”

    I dunno. I heard Henry Cisneros speak earlier this year, and he asked who was going to provide nursing-home care for the aging baby boom, if not immigrants willing to work in those low-wage jobs?

    But of course, the first generation to arrive expects their kids to go to college.

  12. Bob on October 28, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Naismith:
    I live at one of the ‘Ground Zeros’ of immigration_ the San Fernando Valley, CA. To my left, lives a man from India, he is a computer programer. I would guess he makes over $100,000. On my other side, is a German engineer, he also makes good money. Yes, we have a Latino working or labor class. But we also have a very large Middle and Upper class of non-Americans.
    I would guess most of our Latinos are American born. My point is many do not understand immigration to America today, legal or illegal.

  13. Chadwick on October 28, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    On a recent trip to the Goa airport (a resort town in India) there is a huge billboard advertising doctors in the US who will help pregnant women from India get a tourist visa to the USA, write them a doctor’s note not allowing them to leave the USA until after the baby is born due to pregnancy-related risks of a 15-hour flight home, and voila, the baby is now a US citizen! Every time I see that sign I just have to chuckle. People still want in.

    Ideally it would be awesome if we could take in the huddled masses, but still be seen as a desirable place by the non-huddled masses. That is, take in a natural influx of people from all backgrounds to build a sustainable model. It’s tough to feel exclusionary merely because I was born here.

    I agree with Alison 99% of the way. The idea of people coming here as pioneers rather than heirs to America makes perfect sense. But you lose me when you reference Obama’s stash. Pray tell, what is in the stash? As a middle class working stiff, I don’t recall getting anything other than a one-year payroll tax cut of 2%.

  14. Bob on October 29, 2011 at 2:21 am

    Chadwick:
    Yes, there are, (as Alison said), those who come to this country for ‘free stuff’-not freedom. But, I find/see, for everyone of those, there are 50 (?), who come and will do *whatever it takes* to make a better life using our system. I am saying, it’s not the ‘freeloader’ that we should concern us, but those who will do *whatever it takes*, by that I mean study or work, to get ahead. Again, I am not against these people coming here and doing this. It’s what has made this country great and they are working within our system.

  15. Aaron on October 29, 2011 at 6:47 am

    Henry Cisneros is already behind the times. My mother was in a nursing home in the late 90s to 2001. Most of her aides were immigrants. Rwanda, Cameroon, the Phillipines. Bolivia. Some of them were overeducated for the job of aide. For the most part, they were wonderful.

    That said, I worry about any kind of immigration, legal or illegal, as well as population growth every time I try to go anywere on our crowded highways, anytime I stand in a security line at an airport. Parts of our nation have become very, very crowded.

  16. Bob on October 29, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Aaron,
    “Parts of our nation have become very, very crowded.”
    Yes, but a lot of the world, we look empty.

  17. Bob on October 29, 2011 at 9:21 am

    BBC today: “The world’s population is about to hit 7 billion.”

  18. Bryan Stiles on October 29, 2011 at 9:57 am

    #4 Tim

    And, while many in the U.S. want to get rid of Hispanics, and many in Europe want to get rid of Muslims, Jewish populations in both places don’t face much (if any) discrimination.

    Actually as far as religious hate crimes go Jews by far bear the brunt of it. according to the FBI web site there were 1,575 religious hate crimes in 2009 (there were 4,057 race hate crimes). Of the 1,575 crimes 71.9% were victims because of an anti-Jewish bias. The next most persecuted religion (as far as hate crimes go) is Islam with 8.4%.

  19. Tim on October 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    1/3 of the Supreme Court is Jewish, compared to about 1.7% of U.S. citizens. They’re overrepresented by a factor of about 20 (20!) in the Supreme Court.

    And they’re much, much more likely to report hate crimes than Muslims or other less-favored minorities.

  20. Kent Larsen on October 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Aaron (15), last I looked we have one of the lowest population densities on the earth, more than 10 times less than the country with the highest density. And there are countries with 10 times our density that still come close to feeding themselves (Taiwan, for example, produces 85% of its own food).

    Given that we have a massive amount of land, isn’t the moral thing to do to allow more immigrants so that other nations can reduce their population densities?

    Or should we continue to take more than our fair share of arable land?

  21. Kent Larsen on October 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Bryan (18), when it comes to immigration, you can’t limit the analysis to religious crimes. You must also include crimes against immigrants, and against perceived immigrants (Hispanics and others). I’m not surprised that Jews bear the worst of the crime against a religious group. But not all of those discriminated against are religions. Simply put, your comparison doesn’t cover all the bases.

  22. Jax on October 29, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    And they’re much, much more likely to report hate crimes than Muslims or other less-favored minorities.

    Maybe participating in the system leads to being favored in it… If you come here and don’t use the system (not reporting crimes) then you can’t complain when it doesn’t work for you and/or if you are underrepresented in that system, can you?

    Given that we have a massive amount of land, isn’t the moral thing to do to allow more immigrants so that other nations can reduce their population densities?

    Or should we continue to take more than our fair share of arable land?

    Below us in density are Russia, Canada, Sweden, and Australia (modernized countries) as well as most of Africa, and most of South America. The only continent that is generally more dense is Europe. So if the desire is for arable land, then there are better places than the US, as far as density goes, on every continent. If what they want is protection under our government, perhaps they should participate in it by coming in legally and reporting crimes. If it is the culture they want then they should try to model it (language, dress, customs). Any combination of reasons should dictate the same behavior…

    Did I miss any of the most common reasons?

    We should open the gates of immigration and let MANY more people in, but lets not just take anyone… Personally I’ve never talked to anyone against immigration/immigrants … I know a lot who don’t like ILLEGAL immigration or ILLEGAL immigrants, but the people I talk to universally want more immigration and more LEGAL immigrants. But for reasons I don’t know, the Gov’t keeps the immigration lines long and cumbersome – this needs to change.

  23. Kent Larsen on October 29, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Jax:

    So if the desire is for arable land, then there are better places than the US, as far as density goes, on every continent.

    So, what are you suggesting, Jax? That this somehow relieves the U.S. of any moral obligation?

    If what they want is protection under our government, perhaps they should participate in it by coming in legally and reporting crimes.

    All very fine to suggest, Jax. However, coming legally is next to impossible. If we want them to come legally, we have to change our laws to make that a reasonable possibility.

    We should open the gates of immigration and let MANY more people in, but lets not just take anyone…

    Who said we would take just anyone?

    I know a lot who don’t like ILLEGAL immigration or ILLEGAL immigrants, but the people I talk to universally want more immigration and more LEGAL immigrants.

    Really? They are out there. They want immigration restricted so that they won’t somehow lose what they have.

  24. Brad on October 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    “In short, our immigration law has gradually made a mockery of this symbol. We do not welcome, instead we have become yet another land with ‘storied pomp.’ Our immigration laws seek not the poor, but the wealthy and educated. Worse, our actions towards many immigrants restrict freedom instead of promoting it.”

    Overstated. The US takes in around one million legal immigrants in a year and a half a million illegal immigrants. That is far more than any other country on earth. I’m in favor of granting amnesty to many of the illegals here in the US. But everyone and their dog wants to come and live in the US. There needs to be some regulation and order in the system. As far as I am concerned Lady Liberty still stands tall.

    As for the Jews: Occupy Wall Street is not anti-Semitic. The conservative media found one nut job in the protest, and so they blow it out of proportion.

    Also the Jews are certainly some of the most vocal about persecution and hate crimes, as they have a right to be. But we are really living in a post-anti-Jewish age in the US. Muslims and Middle Easterners are without a doubt much more the victims of hate crimes, persecution, and scorn in this country. Let’s not kid our my misinterpreting statistical data.

  25. Brad on October 29, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    sorry, kid ourselves by misinterpreting statistical data.

  26. Bob on October 29, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    I use to work in the Home Office of a very large insurance company. We use to joke/guess on how many workers from India entered the building, by way of the internet, put in an eight hour day, and went back to India that night. We guessed the number was large. You no longer have to be here to work here.

  27. Jax on October 29, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    So, what are you suggesting, Jax? That this somehow relieves the U.S. of any moral obligation?

    No, just that if population density is the draw to the US, then there are many other places to go. It just seemed an odd reason to point out for why people come here… then again, it is the reason I left the Wasatch Front for rural Arkansas.

    All very fine to suggest, Jax. However, coming legally is next to impossible. If we want them to come legally, we have to change our laws to make that a reasonable possibility.

    Which is why I said later on that we should be very open with our immigration policy saying, “We should open the gates of immigration and let MANY more people in.” I don’t think we disagree there, do we?

    Who said we should take just anyone?

    Nobody, I just thought it should be said.

    And Yes, really, nobody I’ve ever talked to has said, we should restrict legal immigration. They often despise the ILLEGAL immigration and want that stopped ASAP. I have a degree in Political Science and sat through many a seminar on immigration… but don’t recall ever hearing anyone say we shouldn’t allow any immigration. Maybe they were to cowardly to say it…because I’m sure they are out there, I’ve just never heard it, especially in the public square.

    I do hate the immigration discussion when it gets turned into party politics though. Republicans say Democrats want to let everyone in with open borders, Dems say Repubs want to kick everyone out and close borders completely. Bunch of rubbish! We should completely close the borders, with military if necessary, but open the gates for legal immigration to the highest extent possible. No immigration is just as ludicrous as open borders with no immigration control. We should encourage immigration but in a controlled/organized and safe manner.

    Brad, one million people is approximately 1/312th of our population…I don’t think it would hurt to be just a bit more generous than that. If it was all through LEGAL channels, then we could easily double it without fear of population control problems or overloading the system.

  28. Bryan Stiles on October 29, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    Ok, so I suppose there could be a 64% margin of error due to reporting bias. My point wan’t to argue that Jews are the most persecuted in our country, just that the statement “…Jewish populations in both places don’t face much (if any) discrimination” “…doesn’t cover all the bases.”

    I find it interesting how quick everyone was do jump on the stat and explain it away though.

  29. Chadwick on October 30, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Jax:

    I recall a few posts ago you were upset that the US government is just too plain big. Yet now you want to build a huge wall around Mexico, Canada, and up and down the Atlantic and Pacific seaboard and man it with guns and soldiers? Does that not extend the reach of government on something quite expensive?

    The problem with government spending is that it’s only outrageous and out of control when spent on things we don’t like. Otherwise, it’s like Black Friday spending the taxpayer’s dollars.

    A slight threadjack, so I’ll keep it at that.

  30. Bob on October 30, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Chadwick:
    I like your “Black Friday”. Yes, some customers are happy. Yes, some sellers are happy. But__it just seems a wrong way to sell things.

  31. Brad on October 30, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Yeah Jax, I second Chadwick. Weren’t you advocating building a security fence a few posts back? I am a bit surprised at your reaction to my suggestion that the US maintain some regulation and order on the immigration question.

  32. Kent Larsen on October 30, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Brad (24): “There needs to be some regulation and order in the system.”

    Of course there should be. The point that I’m trying to make is that legal immigration needs to be larger. I’ve argued elsewhere that being too restrictive is immoral — because it is essentially selfish. That is our problem now. We are too selfish with who we allow in.

    If your numbers are correct, then we need to be accepting at least another 1/2 million a year, and likely more to recognize the demand from those who want to come legally. There is no good reason why would-be immigrants should have to wait more than a couple years to be able to come to the U.S. And yet some are faced with waits that are nearly a decade long.

    If it was really just a year or two wait, how many illegal immigrants would still come?

  33. Wilfried on October 30, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks for the post, Kent!

    You probably know this, but the New Colossus was originally conceived as a stylized Muslim woman lighting the entrance to the Suez canal. When Egypt couldn’t finance the project, sculptor Bartholdi lobbied the French government to turn it into a gift to the U.S.

    It took a lot of effort to convince the Americans to accept the gift (and pay for the pedestal).

    And Emma Lazarus was a Jewish woman with strong socialist sympathies…

  34. Robert on October 30, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Times and Seasons needs some new immigration laws. :p

  35. Kent Larsen on October 30, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Wilfried (33), I did NOT know about that. Fascinating.

    Robert (34), you’ll have to be more specific. T&S is a pretty open door — anyone can comment until they are not nice to others. Are you suggesting that we be more restrictive?

  36. John Peterson on October 30, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    To understand some of the depth of this poem read the chapter from America’s Prophet by Bruce Feiler. It really changes your perspective to understand the political and historical events of this time and what the poem and the famous phrases in it mean. It also helps to understand the religious symbolism of the Statue of Liberty.

    Read also Ronald Reagan’s remarks on the 100th anniversary. The point is anyone, even the lowest of the classes from any land, can come here and be a king. Problems of course exist in our immigration, but we can’t compare the times now to then. What we can do is be sure we don’t forget that in this country we still can become kings until we let our agency be taken away, one law at a time.

    If we really get freedom back to our citizens again then immigration will take care of itself. Immigration problems are only that because of the social welfare state we have allowed to take the place of agency and freedom.

  37. Nicol Legakis on October 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    ‘Tis true what you say about immigration reform, yet the “huddled masses” keep coming. We need to look at what the U.S. government is doing wrong, and yet not lose sight of the great blessings still available in this country which encourage so many to leave family and friends behind in order to enter our “golden door”.

  38. John Peterson on October 30, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    We are losing those freedoms, but the perception of and what we do really have still beats most of the rest of the world. As long as we don’t welcome masses searching for handouts with our policies we will only get those searching for the agency and accountability they once all chose for.

  39. Jax on October 30, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Bob and Brad,

    Yeah, I think gov’t is too big. But defense is one of the areas where they should spend money. Defending our borders is one area of defense. Build a wall and man it with big men holding rifles I say. Not “around” Canada and Mexico, just across our borders with them. No need for a wall along the shores if we bring our fleet back home, plenty of them to secure the water. But then open up the path for legal immigrants, we could allow a lot more in than we do – especially if all illegal immigration stopped.

    Did I contradict myself somewhere and not know it? I definitely am a smaller gov’t guy, even smaller defense budget, but increasing border security is one area I think we need to expand using some of the resources we could save by leaving Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, Korea…etc.

  40. Bob on October 31, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Jax,
    I don’t have the numbers, but it my belief most illegal aliens entered this country legally, either by a simple plane flight, or their visa has runout.

  41. Kent Larsen on October 31, 2011 at 5:52 am

    Bob (40), that’s what I understand also — something just over 50% of illegal immigrants simply overstay their visa (which, BTW, is not even a crime — its more like a parking ticket).

  42. Kent Larsen on October 31, 2011 at 6:00 am

    John Peterson (36 & 38): “get freedom back to our citizens again”

    Really? Please give me a list of exactly which “freedoms” have been so badly and unwisely limited that this is a big issue.

    “As long as we don’t welcome masses searching for handouts with our policies”

    Hmmm, exactly which “handouts” are we giving that are creating such a big problem? Social Security? “Welfare”? which government transfer payments are “welfare” that shouldn’t happen? Food stamps? I suspect that the majority of Americans support each and every example that you will raise. And with good reason, for when you dive into the details of each program, they are limited to solving a particular type of problem and aren’t meant to be handouts except in cases where the need is very significant.

    Its amazing how often the claim is raised that we give out handouts, by those who have never looked at the details of the programs.

    Please, John, be specific. Which programs are actually handouts that attract immigrants?

  43. Tim on October 31, 2011 at 6:14 am

    A wall along the Canada/U.S. border? 5,525 miles. If it’s like the fence along the Mexican border, 100 miles cost about $7,000,000,000. So you could expect a cost of about $386,750,000,000. Of course, other estimates of the cost exist, but if it’s going to be effective, it has got to be high tech and substantial. And upkeep will not be cheap either. Quite frankly, a Canada/U.S. wall is just plain silly.

    And, like others here have posted, plenty of people get in through different means. My wife had a roommate and good friend who just overstayed her student visa. People build tunnels. They get fake papers that allow them entry.

    We do know what keeps illegal immigrants away–a crappy economy. The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has actually dropped the last couple of years. If there are no jobs in the U.S., they stop coming. If we increased legal immigration to meet the demand for workers in the U.S., illegal immigration would become a tiny trickle. That solution is much cheaper and much smarter than an enormous, hugely expensive border fence.

  44. John Peterson on November 1, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Kent (42):

    Anyone need not look any further than the income tax to see the erosion of freedom. Keeping in perspective your original article, compare the situation of a business in the post civil war era vs today. An “immigrant” from Italy knows how to make pizza. He arrives in New York and finds a place to live. From that he purchases goods and makes pizzas that he sells. 100% of his proceeds go back into increasing his business if he so chooses and supporting his family. Today if an immigrant came in with the same skills they first would not be allowed to start a business due to the excessive regulations they would face. If they did they would be subject to immediate tax of 15% social security and medicare on anything they make and lots of taxes and regulations to follow from the first dollar. If they made much money they could be paying over 50% of their income to the government. With sales tax, property tax, road tax, etc they can be well into the 70% range. Is freedom really getting 30% of what we work for? You work until September for the government and others, and from then until the end of the year you keep the benefits of your labor. Rates vary based on income, but relative to the period of the Statue of Liberty taxes have gone from close to zero to a much higher amount. To me that is a simple example of the erosion of freedom. The dream of the huddled masses coming to become kings in a free land based on their efforts is greatly hindered by tax policy and regulation. (I do not think zero tax or regulation is correct either, but much less than we have today.)

    You asked what handouts create a problem. What handouts do not cause a problem? Any handout given by the government does not come from a magical money tree, but comes from a taxpayer somewhere, be it a business, individual, inheritance, sales tax, or any other. The government should not be giving any handouts. The role of our federal government is narrowly and specifically defined in our constitution and taxes should only support those roles. Anything beyond that is forced charity by way of taxation, taking from one to give to another. Charity when forced is no longer charity, but is despised by the giver and unappreciated by the entitled receiver. Any “handout” belongs in the realm of churches and charities, not our government, and especially not our federal government. One plan allows individuals the agency to give, and some will and some will not, and some will live and some will not, and each individual will get the rewards of their choices, whether that be to their growth and benefit or their own demise. The other plan says all people will be forced to give and all will be taken care of, and the power and glory be to those politicians that create and enforce these rules. Hopefully that rings a bell. Just because a majority of the citizens support something does not make it right. Despite that they forget, every citizen of this land and every other once chose for a plan of agency over forced good actions.

    And yes, many of the welfare programs do go to support illegal immigrants, whether it be directly to them or to their children born here. The system benefits them by coming illegally and finding their way into the public coffers through various means. Some specifics are Medicaid, school breakfast and lunch programs, SSI, and education assistance.

    Please give me one example of a government program that follows the principles of welfare taught within the LDS church.

    Thank you again for your article and the remembrance of this great symbol of our country. The symbol of the Statue of Liberty has unfortunately lost meaning in the web of laws, rules, regulations and abuse of the system. I would love to see the day again when it meant what it did to those at the turn of the century.

  45. Kent Larsen on November 1, 2011 at 9:50 am

    John, you are WAY outside of reasonable.

    The problem with almost all of your examples, is that we as a people CHOSE the income tax. There are tax havens where those who have as much money as you suggest, can go if they don’t like the tax burden the rest of us, through our representatives, have chosen.

    The fact of the matter is that government handouts help a lot of people and are often the step needed for them to progress, and survive. We also benefit from this, because often those who receive these “handouts” are then able to participate in the economy, benefiting everyone.

    You said “Please give me one example of a government program that follows the principles of welfare taught within the LDS church.”

    How about Student Loans? They are not significantly different from the Perpetual Education Fund loans in any way that I can see!

    I think that welfare principles begin with care and concern for others — and the motivation behind many government programs is also out of care and concern for others. Unfortunately, government isn’t in a position to act the same way a Church can act. It has to be even handed, and procedurally bound — so it can’t decide who to help in the same way that a Church can. Nor can it assume that participants and decision makers have the same motivations and values. Your expectation that the same principles can be used in the same way seems inappropriate, IMO.

  46. John Peterson on November 1, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Kent (45): In what way did we choose the income tax? Every crisis has allowed them to ratchet it up a small step each time. With each step came another government program, which overspent and required debt or another small step in the income tax. And even if we chose it, once again, it does not make it right. A lot of people smoke, drink, live immoral lives, but it does not make them right.

    Student loans are a great example in favor of my point. Government gives handouts (whether direct gifts or low or no-interest loans) so the cost of education is less to the individual. In the “market” schools then can charge more for education since the government is subsidizing a portion of it. Tuition increases, schools and professors no longer answer to their customers (the students), and they create an unsustainable bubble in education that will collapse at some point. The intention of the school loans may be good, but bureaucracy turns it around in practice. Conversely, the PEF is needs based, can be excused by local authorities, and most of all the money that funds it is…get this, voluntary. The giver and receiver both benefit, and the receiver knows the source of that money was charitable. They don’t take more than they need. That’s why it works, and that’s how it differs.

    Government hand outs do help some people, but they cripple more than they help by creating dependency, division, and ingratitude. Again, that is the difference in the church welfare system. If government welfare did not exist, I still believe enough in the character of the individual that they would support charities, churches, and directly show love to their neighbor.

    I completely agree with you that the motivation is care and concern for others. Your logic follows well that “Unfortunately, government isn’t in a position to act the same way a Church can act. It has to be even handed, and procedurally bound — so it can’t decide who to help in the same way that a Church can.” I agree. It cannot and should not be trying to keep doing things it’s not designed to do. I do not see that as WAY outside reasonable to think government should stay within the bounds it was created to serve. But of course, that is my opinion. I do not think those that hold to those ideals should have to move elsewhere to get what the constitution promised citizens of our land. Europe is there for those that want socialism, and they can move too.

  47. Kent Larsen on November 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    John (46): “In what way did we choose the income tax?”

    I don’t know about you, but I do go to the polls and vote in each election. I pay attention to who my congressmen and senators are, and vote for the ones I think best.

    Those representatives have, BECAUSE WE ELECTED THEM TO DO SO, passed laws, including the income tax.

    This is elementary representative democracy. Why is this so hard?

    “Every crisis has allowed them to ratchet it up a small step each time.”

    them? who is them? Congress? We elected them — therefore, “them” is actually “us.”

    Why do you think you can distance yourself from democracy by calling the Congress “them?”

    I don’t think your idea about Student Loans is correct at all. They are a loan, not a handout. You have to pay them back, plus interest. If the interest is subsidized, it is while you are in school and isn’t that much of a reduction in the rate (the last I looked rates are similar to mortgage rates, or perhaps a bit higher).

    Are you suggesting that society doesn’t benefit from having more educated people? Do you think that, on the whole, those who have received student loans aren’t paying MORE taxes than they would have without an education?

    Your contention that student loans have led to tuition increases is malarkey. The data simply don’t support this contention. The increase in education costs came well after student loans were introduced — not immediately after as you would expect if loans were driving the costs.

    Please, other than what presidential politicians have claimed recently, what evidence is there for this nonsense claim?

    You then say:

    “PEF is needs based” — so are student loans!

    “can be excused by local authorities,” — uh how does this make a difference? Sounds like it violates your idea of “individual responsibility”

    “most of all the money that funds it is…get this, voluntary.” — I don’t see what this has to do with whether or not the program is good or follows welfare principles. If the Church used tithing funds to fund the program, would it somehow be less righteous? or follow welfare principles less? Would the recipients then be “crippled” for taking the money?

    “The giver and receiver both benefit, and the receiver knows the source of that money was charitable.” — And with student loans, the recipient benefits with an education (that he still pays for) AND the entire country benefits by having a better educated workforce — each of us taxpayers benefits because others in our country can contribute more because of their education, and earn more and pay more taxes, lessening our burden (all other things being equal). Everyone wins because of student loans!

    “They don’t take more than they need.” — really? How do you or can you, or anyone, know this? Student Loans are limited in how much can be given. Sure, some students take more than they might need — but they have to pay it back!! This reduces the incentive to go too far. And since the amount available is limited, its not like they can get all that much more than they need. PEF loans can also be abused this way. Remember, one person’s need is another’s luxury. Just because the local bishop or other Church authority determines that what the student says is in fact a need, doesn’t mean that it is a need in your definition. The difference here is really very small, I think.

    “Government hand outs do help some people, but they cripple more than they help by creating dependency, division, and ingratitude.”

    Perhaps in some cases. How many of these cases are you personally familiar with? Have you ever had to get a handout? or worked with someone who did? Often, they aren’t that easy to get, so I’m not sure what you mean by “ingratitude” — I’m pretty sure that there are even some recipients of LDS Church welfare who also end up dependent and show a lack of gratitude.

    I have no idea what you mean by “creating division.” — unless you mean those that look down on those who take government help. If so, then shame on those who do so, the problem is with them.

    John, regarding “government should stay within the bounds it was created to serve,” I suggest that you re-read the constitution. There’s a line in the preamble about “the common welfare” that covers all of this.

  48. Jax on November 1, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Kent,

    John, regarding “government should stay within the bounds it was created to serve,” I suggest that you re-read the constitution. There’s a line in the preamble about “the common welfare” that covers all of this.

    Pretty sure that the “promote the general welfare” part of the constitution wasn’t meant to mean what you think it does. It doesn’t mean we can go do whatever we want above and beyond what the constitution outlines in order to promote what we think is the general good of the people (the Congress does, but it is morally and ethically wrong for so doing). It means that in order to do good for the people, the government must stay within the confines of the powers granted it in the Constitution.

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    See, if you read it correctly, it doesn’t say we government can or should do things that are good for people, but that doing the things in the Constitution WILL BE for the general good. We have the Constitution to promote the welfare of our people, staying “within the bounds it was created to serve” is HOW it promotes that welfare. Part of that is not usurping ANY authority not granted by the consitution itself, because that is reserved to others. The Constitution was ordained and established for the general welfare, you can’t then ignore the Constitution and say it is for the general welfare. That is intellectually dishonest.

    Acting beyond what the Federal Government was created to do (including social welfare) or failing to fulfill duties it is supposed to do (National defense, etc.; see section 1 article 8) both work contrary to the General Welfare. Both shirking responsibilities and usurping even more are not beneficial to our citizens.

    Even a rise in living standards is NOT worth the price of our freedom. A lesson I fear we are all going to learn again in the near future!

  49. John Peterson on November 1, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Ken (47): Tithing is also voluntary last time I checked, taxing one group to give to another does create divisions, the constitution was created to limit the power and role of the federal government, and clearly socialism is alive and well in the minds of some members of the church.

    It is clear that you consider yourself to be wise and educated, and simple concepts will not persuade you to choose for true agency and freedom. It has been enlightening to understand some of the thought processes that allow one with similar stated beliefs to come to such opposite conclusions on the proper role of government and how that affects freedom and agency. I had always heard use of various clauses that had been twisted to the extreme to make the constitution fit the needs of the current argument, but your use of just three words in the preamble to side-step the entire rest of the document is a new one. Thank you for taking time to go into some of these subjects and explain your perspective.

    In matters of disagreement I defer then to confirmed sources of truth. I cannot agree with your conclusions unfortunately at this time based upon my readings and understanding of the writings and teachings from ones that I do truly consider wise. One of the best is President Benson, as he does not hold back in explaining how government should work. He very clearly explains why even a little socialism is treacherous. Rather than argue each point I would refer you to his talk on the proper role of government. When I put that next to your arguments for selective socialism I have to agree with his conclusions and teachings. That society benefits is not an argument that is supported within the context of his teachings. Popularity does not make things right.

    I will not also question your patriotism and love of the country, but rest assured I do vote, every time. I have read the constitution many times, and many other works about it, our country, and always tied them into teachings from sources I consider truth. Thanks for the encouragement to read it again though, as it’s always a good read. I am however not under any illusion though that our government is simplistic and truly representative of the people. Once the federal government grew beyond its constitutional bounds power has corrupted what was a simple system. The recent awakening of the apathetic voters is encouraging that things may change for the better. It is unfortunately “them” at this point but I certainly keep alive hope for better.

    This discussion could go into all areas of government and the age-old battle of those that want socialism vs those that want to maintain true freedom. I better stop the discussion here though as I need to get some work done so I can earn some money and have a lot of it “legally plundered” and spent on teaching South African men how to wash their genitals. (Yeah, $823,200 of our tax dollars went to that one in 2010. I guess it is for the common welfare though.)

    Again, and genuinely, thank you for your original article in remembrance of Lady Liberty, the sonnet by Emma Lazarus and the thought-provoking question you posed about immigration. The greater the discussion the greater the understanding and involvement of good people. Keep up the good work!

  50. Bob on November 2, 2011 at 3:02 am

    The Preamble is not in the Consitution.
    “The Preamble serves solely as an introduction, and does not assign powers to the federal government,[1] nor does it provide specific limitations on government action. Due to the Preamble’s limited nature, no court has ever used it as a decisive factor in case adjudication.” (Wikipedia)
    The 16th Amendment is.

  51. Alison Moore Smith on November 2, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Naismith #11:

    I heard Henry Cisneros speak earlier this year, and he asked who was going to provide nursing-home care for the aging baby boom, if not immigrants willing to work in those low-wage jobs?

    One of my adult daughters applied for two nursing home jobs last summer while she was on her job hunt. And she’s not an immigrant, as far as I know. Right now I’m providing in-my-home “nursing home care” for my 82-year-old dad. As I’ve said before, I have done most “jobs that Americans won’t do” myself. And my husband has probably done the rest.

    If you can find a job my kids aren’t willing to do, i’s because it’s immoral or illegal. Or maybe something their mom won’t let them do, like be a pro motocross racer. :)

    Chadwick #13:

    But you lose me when you reference Obama’s stash. Pray tell, what is in the stash?

    The Obama Stash of Stimulus Cash

    Kent Larsen #47:

    I don’t think your idea about Student Loans is correct at all. They are a loan, not a handout. You have to pay them back, plus interest.

    Unless the Occupy Wallstreet protesters get their way. Or Obama, for that matter. His plan is to cap repayments at 10% discretionary income, with remaining debt forgiven after 20 years of payments. The delayed payments and forgiveness portions of that come at a cost — a cost borne by others. A handout.

    John #46:

    Government hand outs do help some people, but they cripple more than they help by creating dependency, division, and ingratitude.

    Kent #47:

    Perhaps in some cases. How many of these cases are you personally familiar with?

    I’ve personally seen dozens and dozens of such cases. The “something for nothing,” “I’m entitled to…” attitude is everywhere. (Come on, what do you think “income redistribution” is?)

    Benefits ‘wrecked the British work ethic,’ new study claims

    My thought, “Did they really need a study for this?”

    My prodigal (not to be confused with the other) brother, is a prime example. He divorced his first wife — and continued to live with her for quite a while — “because if we’re divorced we get two welfare checks instead of one.”

    Robbie would never, ever starve to death, but if he can find a way not to work, he will do it. He’s 49 and hasn’t held a job in at least 19 years. And he doesn’t have to, because we all send him a chunk of our paychecks so he can sleep in and then kick back a few while he watches Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

    When I moved to Boca, one of my first close friends — a week’s-long convert — went through an incredible transformative process as she compared the culture she was raised in and her new-found Mormon culture.

    She explained in great detail all the ways she, her family, and her friends gamed the system. It wasn’t a hit and miss proposition, it was multiple elaborate schemes. [One easy tactic is to have a baby, live with the father, but don’t claim him as the father. Insta-welfare.]

    Almost every time we did something together, at some point she’d start to suggest we do something (like get toys for the kids without paying) and then stop and say, “Oh. I bet Mormons don’t do that, do they?”

    It was amazing to watch her change, but also eye-opening. And her “old” friends thought she was “stupid to work when you don’t have to.”

    Ever seen Cinderella Man? One of my favorite movies and indicative of the attitude toward handouts of the bulk of my parents’ generation.