By Mackenzie Farkus
In 1881, thousands of Ashkenazi Jewish refugees emigrated from Russia to New York to escape anti-Semitic violence that took place as part of the Russian pogroms.
Emma Lazarus, a Sephardic-Ashkenazi Jewish woman and poet, saw the plight of these refugees and advocated on their behalf. She later helped form the Hebrew Technical Institute of New York to provide vocational training to Jewish refugees.
Inspired by the influx of refugees arriving in New York, Lazarus wrote the sonnet “The New Colossus,” which is now inscribed on a bronze plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
Although the sonnet itself was written in 1883, a few of the lines of “The New Colossus” in particular are relevant today:
“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…”
President Donald J. Trump and the U.S. cannot ignore the work of Lazarus and the words of “The New Colossus.” The U.S. should remain a country open to immigrants and refugees alike and cast away the ban on travel from Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan.
Many people—including President Trump and his administration—are justifying this ban by claiming that former President Barack Obama instated a similar six-month ban on the visas of Iraq refugees in 2011.
This, however, is not true. According to the magazine Foreign Policy, President Obama’s policy was not a ban; it was adding more steps to the vetting process for refugees from Iraq, thus slowing down the admission of refugees and adding more rigor to the vetting process itself.
According to The Washington Post, the vetting process imposed by President Obama is viewed by many intelligence officials to still be secure and sufficient today.
Despite this, President Trump is refusing to accept immigrants and refusing to take refugees out of harm’s way.
He is disrupting the education of students and academics, the lives of families separated in airport facilities, and the work of doctors, lawyers, researchers, and others in the U.S. through this policy.
To deny refugees and immigrants from these seven countries life in the U.S. is to deny the work of Lazarus and the message behind “The New Colossus” and the Statue of Liberty itself.
President Trump must reverse his policy so that the U.S. can continue to be a refuge for those in need.