“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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The next time that Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott or Marjorie Taylor Greene take an Anti-Immigrant Demagogue Holiday in New York, they might want to take a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and read the plaque at the base of the statue. While someone might have to help them with some of the words with which they are unfamiliar like “poor”, “wretched”, and “homeless”, one would have to wonder if the full meaning of the Statue of Liberty would seep into their consciousness.
If they took the time to think about it (“thinking” being a herculean effort for these three) they might realize that when it the statue was assembled and unveiled on October 28, 1886, New York City had already been the point of arrival for millions of immigrants from all over the world for over two hundred years. And while there has always been an anti-immigrant virus in the American bloodstream, the sheer number of immigrants who have become Americans should have eliminated that virus from the American bloodstream.
This Less Than Tremendous Trio might have given some thought to the fact that the only non-immigrant descendants in the United States are what’s left of the descendants of the indigenous peoples of North America, indigenous peoples who were the victims of calculated racial and cultural genocide until they were almost extinct – like the buffalo and the passenger pigeon.
It is clear that when Greene and Abbott and DeSantis are talking about stopping the flow of immigrants to this country they are not particularly concerned about the negative economic impact of immigration. Indeed, in states like Florida and Georgia and Texas, the homes of DeSantis, Greene and Abbott the agricultural sectors rely heavily on immigrant labor. Indeed, the history of the American economy reflects a hug reliance on immigrant labor – whether voluntary, enslaved or involuntary (e.g. the Chinese labor on the transcontinental railroad construction).
And while anti-immigration advocates don’t seem to have a problem with Ukrainian men, women and children coming to the United States by the thousands, there is a problem with Haitian, Venezuelan and Mexican men, women and children. Clearly the concern is not American sovereignty – many immigrants become citizens who are fulling committed to the American Way. Clearly the problem is not that immigrants will somehow drain this country of various public service resources – immigrants give as good as they get.
So, what exactly is the problem? Clearly blond and blue-eyed Ukrainians are welcomed with open arms provided with housing, healthcare and employment. Dark skinned Haitians are beaten with batons and trampled with horses at the U.S.-Mexican border, given one hundred dollars and flown back to the hellhole that is now Haiti – a hellhole for which America carries a heavy historical burden of culpability.
It would appear that the issue is about race – which is the case in America since before the United States even existed. And it can be no coincidence that the opponents of non-white immigration are also against reparations for the descendants of Black enslaved people, and they are also against the teaching of racial truths in American schools, colleges and universities.
Donald Trump was on to something when he revived Ronald Reagan’s Make America Great Again slogan (without attribution – but what else could we expect from a true grifter like Trump). The MAGA chant was not meant for Black Americans or Latinos or Asian Americans or the descendants of the indigenous peoples, all of us wondering exactly hen was America great for us?
But the not so subtle, barely subliminal message in Make America Great Again harks back to a time when “minority” concerns were not a priority for white America. There was a time when racial segregated communities and internment camps and reservations were part of the American Way, and it was a time when very few white Americans found any of this to anything more than regrettable, but necessary, ways to keep America great for its white majority.
Today Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump are blowing dog whistles that all of us can hear.
We know now that when America is Great Again it will not be Great for indigenous people. Asian Americans, Latinos or Black Americans.
Maya Angelou once said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”.
It is time for women and men of goodwill to believe and unite, while there is still time to Make America Great for the First Time.