“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …” The message that rings down through the Bible from Exodus to Revelations, “Blessed are ye poor for yours is the Kingdom of God.”
This beatitude was planted deep in the Judeo-Christian settlers that built America and wrote our Constitution. The words on the Statue of Liberty in 1886 have not changed. Our moral values and heartfelt beliefs are the driving force behind the unparalleled generosity of Americans.
Our government’s efforts with a multiplicity of programs that offer help to the needy in our own country are so successful it is necessary to redefine poverty on a regular basis. Synonyms like destitute, starving, refugee, pauper or beggar no longer fit. They are replaced today by “malnourished, food insecure, food desert and the SUV poor.”
So when we debate about the massive illegal immigration that flows into the U.S., we tell ourselves that they are poor people who are seeking a better life. Compassion is our greatest trait. The tendency to help the downtrodden is part of Americans’ heritage.
But is there a point when enough is enough? We see stories every week about hoarders being arrested for animal neglect and cruelty. They take in abandoned horses or stray cats when they can’t afford to feed or care for them. They do it out of compassion. They can’t say no. It is their downfall.
When we think of poor illegals, Mexicans and our Western Hemisphere neighbors are who we picture. Workers who are willing to do the manual labor required in agriculture, construction and the service industry. They improve our lives.
Educated doctors, scientists and academics from Europe and Asia line up to come to America. They are not poor, they obey the law, and their contribution is equally needed. They point out the flaws of a broken immigration system that favors the criminal rather than the law-abiding. We do have a moral sense of the unfairness, but unfortunately, we can keep them out but we literally can’t keep out the poor illegals.
Illegals have the unspoken advantage of our dependency on their labor. Same for the massive drug smuggling business; we depend on them to get us our precious drugs. Are we worried about border security? Only if you live close to the border.
Enforcement is a conundrum. We would like to do right but it would be to our disadvantage. So in spite of our compassion, there is an underlying practical economic benefit to keep them swimming the river. We want them and need them.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to pour concrete, change hotel beds and mow the lawn. We bend the law, in trade for you all sneakin’ in.” PD