I took this picture a few weeks ago, standing on Ellis Island. This speck of land was the place where my great-grandparents first stepped off a boat over 100 years ago, journeying from Slovakia with the hope that their precious time on this earth could be a happier and more comfortable one.
Today, millions of men, women, and children are fleeing war and starvation and devastation. They are looking for refuge in the same land that my great-grandparents did. For these refugees, happiness and comfort are lofty goals; they want to be able to live. But we - rather our representative in public office - are choosing to turn desperate people away.
The hypocrisy of this is astounding. When our first graders, college students, church goers, and millions of other innocent civilians are slaughtered by guns we say, "we shouldn't ban guns or enforce harsher restrictions because of a few madmen." Yet we are essentially sentencing countless Syrian refugees to die because a few *may* be terrorists.
Though the skyline seen from Ellis Island today has changed tremendously over the years, the words guiding new immigrants to our shore has not (at least not since 1903, when the poem was mounted on Liberty's pedestal):
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "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,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Can we still hold these words - words that so many of our principles and values and histories as Americans depend on - true?