The P's and Q's of Immigration

A Letter to My Granddaughter

Dear Dinah: Sounds like your solo in the Boston church was a triumph. Your grandma and I wish we could have been there to hear it. We'll make it some time.

Now to defend myself against your charge that I'm just an old Scrooge when it comes to immigration. To Cain's question "Am I my brother's keeper?" you say that the answer has to be an unqualified "Yes." Your position has distinguished supporters. There's the poet Schiller, for instance, in his "Ode to Joy," which you know from Beethoven's Ninth (since you've sung in the chorus). And Walt Whitman. And most of today's professional philanthropists. It is also what most Americans think our Statue of Liberty says. But they're wrong.

We've been brainwashed by that darned poem on the base of the statue. Emma Lazarus, pretending to speak for all Americans, said: "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses." How inspiring! How magnanimous of us to offer to share our wealth with all the world's wretched! But who made this commitment? Our own poor, our unemployed, our homeless? Not on your life. The poet was a wealthy woman, who proposed sharing the wealth, the jobs, of other people—our poor—with an unlimited number of immigrants.

As a matter of historical fact, the poem is not a proper part of the statue. It was added to the base 17 years after the statue was dedicated. And who added it? Congress?...

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