If you’ve ever tried to emigrate from the United States to another country or have even applied for an extended stay, chances are that immigration officials required from you proof that you are financially self-sustaining. I experienced this myself in an E.U. country, and friends and family of generous means have regaled me with stories about their frustrations over providing financial documentation deemed sufficient and acceptable to immigration officials in France, Czech Rep, Brazil and Uruguay.
Generally, what these countries want to ensure is that foreign residents will have the means for food and shelter, so that new arrivals will not burden their social welfare system. Exceptions are made for those seeking asylum and those who are repatriating.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, it wouldn’t be fair to the citizens of Uruguay, for example, if they were required to shelter and feed every American vagabond who arrives on their doorstep — not to mention how difficult it would be for local and national government to even determine how much to tax citizens in a revolving-door immigration system.
Immigration policies and their legal enforcement — including self-sufficiency requirements — are the norm worldwide. Yet, somehow, people around the world and even at home are passionately and righteously asserting the false notion that the United States is supposed to be different.
The U.S., they say, is supposed to be the global homeland for the poor, the indigent, the dregs and degenerates. When anyone tries to contest this notion that everyone in the world has “a right to become an American,” they evoke the Statue of Liberty and the plaque on its base as evidence.
US Public Charge Policy
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was subjected to this line of reasoning during an NPR interview on Aug. 13. Cuccinelli met with NPR radio host Rachel Martin to shed light on the Trump administration’s Aug. 12 announcement on U.S. immigration policy, which was falsely being reported as an unfair “new rule.”
Basically, the not-new policy is that legal immigrants who use public benefits — like food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, cost of living subsidies or Medicaid, for example — will be less likely to be approved for legal permanent U.S. residence.
It’s called a “public charge” rule, which essentially means that public taxpayers are being charged for their stay. If an immigrant uses public resources now, or if an immigration official determines that due to low income they will likely need public welfare benefits in the future, that immigrant could see their green card applications delayed or revoked.
Now, let’s pause for moment to examine the real cause of U.S. migration from Central America. It’s not gun violence. It’s money. A factory worker in Mexico earns an average of $70 a week. In the U.S., unskilled laborers earn about $70 a day, which is an income level low enough to qualify for welfare benefits in most cases.
Among legal immigrant-run households, 63 percent were on welfare in 2014, as opposed to 35 percent of American households, according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Among legal immigrants in the U.S. less than 10 years, 50 percent were receiving welfare. Among those in the U.S. more than 10 years, 70 percent were on welfare. This shows a lack of upward mobility over time among legal immigrants.
Cuccinelli explained to NPR that self-sufficiency “is 140-year-old part of our legal immigration system,” and it’s “central to the American value set, and it’s also central to our immigration history. And that’s what this rule does.” A 1996 “public charge” law passed on a bipartisan basis, but it proved ineffective because it wasn’t enforced, Cuccinelli said. “And this rule will make that law effective.”
In response to this explanation, Martin — like most globalist-minded, open-borders Democrats — evoked the Statue of Liberty: “Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus’ words etched on the Statue of Liberty — give me your tired, your poor — are also part of the American ethos?”
“They certainly are,” Cuccinelli replied. “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge. That plaque was put on the Statue of Liberty at almost the same time as the first public charge law was passed — very interesting timing.”
The full interview may be heard in the player below.
During the week that followed, Cuccinelli appeared on numerous news networks to explain the Trump announcement and was repeatedly grilled about how it fits in with Emma Lazarus’ poem and the Statue of Liberty. In a CNN interview, he explained that the poem was referring to European immigrants.
Cuccinelli: That statue of liberty poem was about “people coming from Europe.” pic.twitter.com/nrDcUGJsU3
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) August 13, 2019
Yes, Cuccinelli is right. Emma Lazarus was writing about European immigrant — more specifically, Russian Jews. He omitted that nugget of information. Nonetheless, Madeline Albright felt the need to chime in with Anderson Cooper.
Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said acting Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli suggesting that only immigrants who can “stand on their own two feet” are welcome in the United States is “completely un-American.”
“I’ve been a refugee twice, once from the Nazis and we were in England, and then we came to the United States when the communists took over in Czechoslovakia. And I think that it is one of the most un-American things I’ve ever heard,” Albright told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night on “Anderson Cooper 360.”
Albright, who is known for wearing brooches or decorative pins to convey her foreign policy messages, was wearing a Statue of Liberty pin on her jacket while speaking to Cooper.
“I think the Statue of Liberty is weeping,” she said.
Liberty and Lazarus
As we head toward the 2020 election cycle, we’re likely to hear pro-migration advocates continue to evoke the Statue of Liberty and recite portions of Emma Lazarus’ poem on its pedestal as evidence of America’s open-door immigration philosophy. This is a false representation and manipulation by the usual suspects.
The statue, which was a joint project commissioned between the U.S. and France in 1865, was a gift to the American people in celebration of 100 years of independence. During the American Revolutionary War, the French offered the United States military support in its fight for liberation from Great Britain. It was called the Treaty of Alliance. For these reasons, Lady Liberty holds a tablet inscribed with the date July 4, 1776. The broken chain that lays at her feet represents the abolition of slavery in 1865. But the statue was more than symbolic. It also served as a light house for boats in New York Harbor. In sum, it had NOTHING to do with migration.
The Statue of Liberty’s association with open-door migration is due entirely to its inscription. Enter poet and socialite Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), the Sephardi Jewish daughter of a large New York family who amassed a fortune through sugar refining.
The story goes that Americans were asked to fund a pedestal for the statue, but funding support for the project was weak. Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), the Hungarian-born Jewish publisher of New York World, started a drive for donations in 1882. As part of the effort, Lazarus was asked to donate an original work for auction. She initially declined, stating she could not write a poem about a statue, according to Wikipedia. (Apparently the story of America didn’t inspire her.)
During that time — the time of the Russian pogroms — her attention was devoted to aiding thousands of indigent and destitute Ashkenazi Jews trying to emigrate from Russia to New York. According to Wiki, she helped establish for them the Hebrew Technical Institute in New York and, in 1883, founded the Society for the Improvement and Colonization of East European Jews. She was “an important forerunner of the Zionist movement” and “argued for the creation of a Jewish homeland 13 years before Theodor Herzl began to use the term ‘Zionism.'”
Lazarus discovered Americans weren’t keen on the idea of ushering in thousands of Russian Jews. By 1883, she decided to use the opportunity to write a poem about “the statue” as a way to promote her cause. Thus, she wrote “The New Colossus.” It reads:
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!”
Pulitzer’s New York World and The New York Times published Lazarus’ poem in 1885. She died in 1887 and her “Mother of Exiles” poem was largely forgotten until 1901, when her friend Georgina Schuyler began an effort to memorialize the poet and poem. By 1903, a bronze plaque with a portion of the poem was mounted on the inner wall of the pedestal.
Lazarus’ poem transformed — no, co-opted — the meaning of the Statue of Liberty from a national symbol of American liberation to a global symbol of America as a doormat for the world. Today, it’s being presented to an ignorant public as a modern-day Trojan horse during a battle for American sovereignty.
Lazarus’ poem did not capture the zeitgeist of America. Rather, it was the special interest project of a handful of elite New York Jews who wanted to populate the U.S. with fellow members of their tribe. In fact, immigration laws were far more strict in Lazarus’ time than they are today. This is why Lazarus had to advocate for destitute Russian-Jewish immigrants. [See “Jewish Immigration to America: Three Waves“]
The Conservative Review notes that America’s entire history — from the first colonial-era public charge laws in Massachusetts to the laws written by the federal government in 1882 — there was an ironclad rule that immigrants should never be a burden on America. In fact, just one year before the publishing of the poem, Congress passed the 1882 Immigration Act. It instructed Treasury officials to inspect immigrant ships for public charges.
“If on such examination there shall be found among such passengers any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge … such persons shall not be permitted to land,” states section 2 of the act.
Section 4 of the bill required that the cost of returning public charges be “borne by the owners of the vessels in which they came.” What a brilliant idea!
In 1885, Congress passed the Contract Labor Law of 1885, which forbade advertising or transporting immigrants to America for cheap labor. Section 5 of that act explicitly exempted higher-skilled professionals from this law, CR writes.
In 1891, Congress added to existing categories of inadmissibility: those convicted of a “misdemeanor involving moral turpitude” (in addition to felonies), polygamists, paupers and those suffering from contagious diseases.
Those who arrived on America’s shore had to undergo an interview with an immigration official and a medical exam. Anyone found to have a contagious disease was immediately quarantined and then deported. Immigrants who were found to be a public charge up to a year after being legally admitted into the country could be deported.
In 1903 (the very year the poem was placed on the Statue of Liberty, CR notes), Congress added four new categories to its list of inadmissibles: anarchists, people with epilepsy, “professional beggars” and those who import prostitutes (sex traffickers).
For further reading, see “United States Immigration and Refugee Law, 1921-1980” courtesy of the Holocaust Museum. It describes 20th century anti-immigration views held by Americans and Congress, and the efforts of Jewish groups and their allies to diminish over time America’s immigration laws.
Torchy Takeaway: It’s time to remove Lazarus’ poem from the Statue of Liberty and donate it to Israel. We recommend they mount it on their massive barrier wall dividing Gaza.