Send us your tired….
Warning sign near the border.

The famous poem calling to other lands to send us the poor was always a bit romantic. When it was written and inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, Lazarus’ poem glorified an ideal of this country as haven to the desperate from autocratic states. Often forgotten was the line that proceeded the invitation to poor from other lands, "Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she [Mother of Exiles]. That freedom was enough to inspire heroism from those rejected by other lands, in the ideal of the country’s early days.

(Ironically, the unstoried pomp of the native tribes doesn’t even make as a footnote on this paean to liberty.)

There was a time when many of our forebears on this continent accepted the invitation. Whether they were afraid of persecution by the Church of England like the original Pilgrims, freed convicts with a chance to survive, in a scary strange place, or swam the Rio Grande willing to be labeled ‘wetbacks’ if they could feed their families, most left homes where their lives were miserable. Others, slaves by trafficking of several sorts, came by force or fraud.

The usual hate campaign that the right wing uses to sell its programs against the public good has made a fictitious cartoon image of the immigrant that denies dignity to their own ancestors. Coloring the motivation of the immigrant as theft and criminality satisfies a need – felt by failures in their own lives – to demonize those they see as the competition. Stupidity and cupidity blind the wingnuts to their own role in decimating the very jobs they accuse the later immigrants of stealing. By gutting our country’s economic system, the same fearmongering right wing has empowered government that gives power to the mogul horde that uses that power to put itself out of the reach of our laws. That lawlessness has been used to send jobs, and profits, abroad, paid for by the workers’ own tax dollars. Blinded by the hate rants of their demagogic leaders, these creators of their own impoverishment now cant against the few that still come here to search through the refuse they’ve left of a once proud land of opportunity.

The tattered remains are barely enough – and all too often not enough – to support those of us whose forefathers fled a long time ago from other sinking economies and social systems that rejected them. Learning that the U.S. is also on hard times, the numbers are sinking.

For the first time in two decades, the flow of undocumented immigrants is dropping, a new report shows.

An unstable labor market and tougher immigration enforcement are deterring immigrants from crossing the border and staying in the United States illegally.

The Pew Hispanic Center released a report Wednesday that shows the number of undocumented immigrants arriving to the United States declined by 64 percent in the past decade.

"Unemployment is really high in the United States," report author Jeffrey S. Passel said. "With the state of the U.S. economy, it is harder and more dangerous for undocumented immigrants."

What is left of the land of opportunity has lost its attraction for the ambitious from other lands. If our own ancestors had been told that there was a country over on the other side of the sea, or the river, where leeching powerful were whittling away the returns of their labor, would they have risked their own and their families’ lives for that pitiful shore?

In the medieval world that they fled, the original colonists had at least as good a prospect as we have here when the right wing strips away workers’ ability to achieve a good life.


Author: Ruth Calvo, 66 and retired, is a longtime political activist for progressive causes and writer as well as a daily editor here at The Seminal. She worked in the office of TX. Senator Ralph Yarborough after graduation from Wellesley College in the 60’s, served on the Council on the Arts after receiving their award for playwriting, managed some political campaigns in Maryland, and served several years as assistant to Maryland House of Delegates member Delegate Gene Counihan.