These lines from Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus” are engraved on a tablet within the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands.
“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!”
And these words were spoken by Joao, an undocumented day laborer on Staten Island, earlier this year when rumors were flying throughout the New York area that officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be deporting families, particularly those from Central America.
“For two days I didn’t go out; I just didn’t leave the house. When family called to check on me, I told them, ‘Don’t worry. I’m hiding under the bed.’”
We are all immigrants or descended from immigrants. Do we all have the right to choose where our home will be, to put down roots in another country, to become part of a new community, to make a living and raise a family?
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” (Article 14) Furthermore, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” (Article 25)
Annie Moore was the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island on January 1, 1892, after she arrived from Ireland on the SS Nevada. She was inspected by an employee of the Secretary of the Treasury’s office and given a $10 gold coin by an immigration superintendent. Between 1892 and 1954, 12 million third-class and steerage immigrants passed through the halls of Ellis Island. First- and second-class immigrant travelers were processed on board steamships entering New York harbor.
Today, over 40 million immigrants live in the United States, an all-time high. Our country remains a popular destination for about 20 percent of the world’s international migrants. Unfortunately, the United States has not yet found a kind and fair way to deal with the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in limbo, with no path to become legal and afraid of becoming separated from millions more of their citizen children. President Obama’s executive orders are stalled in federal court, and Republicans routinely block any reform. It will now be up to the next president and Congress.
The stakes are high, the rhetoric is fierce, and the rumors keep flying. People are afraid that a raid could happen at any time, anywhere. They are attending Know Your Rights meetings held across the New York area and distributing Know Your Rights palm cards (http://www.nyclu.org/publications/palm-card-what-do-if-youre-stopped-immigration-officers-2012)
We support keeping families together. To that end, the Sunday Program Committee is sharing Sunday platform collections in April with organizations that promote immigrant rights and provide services for immigrant families. Please see the information in this newsletter about them. Learn more and donate generously.