National Catholic Register

Commentary

Give Us Your Heart: an Open Letter to Immigrants

You perhaps have heard of the great poem by Emma Lazarus at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

BY JENNIFER ROBACK MORSE

December 17-23, 2006 Issue | Posted 12/13/06 at 10:00 AM

 

You perhaps have heard of the great poem by Emma Lazarus at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

“Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

We are very proud of those lines and we would like to welcome you to America. But we want to add something to that great poem, and speak directly to you:

Give us your hearts.

If you are going to be in America, become one of us. Please don’t keep going back and forth to Mexico, with your jobs here and your hearts there. Learn our language. Respect our laws. Study American history.

We don’t just want your labor to use while you’re young and discard when you are old and used up. We want your hearts, your commitment to us, our land, our history. We want you to become part of the American story. We want you to join us in building the continuing American experiment in liberty based in law. Allow me to apologize for anyone who may have hurt your feelings in the last election.

We know that most of you love our country. You came here to better yourselves and your families. Most of you have succeeded in this. We appreciate your confidence in us. Many of you are grateful to America. Allow us to be grateful to you.

There are some things about us that perhaps seem strange to you. We want you to understand how we see immigration. People from all over the world aspire to come here to create a better life for themselves and their families. That is our immigration “problem”; there are far more people who want to come to America than we can reasonably accommodate. We are victims of our own success.

That is why Americans have to talk among ourselves about who we want to come. How many immigrants do we want? Which kind of immigrants should we take? What impact will a particular type of immigrant have on our taxes, our jobs, our legal system?

Please, try not to take it personally while we are having this conversation. We don’t mean to say that any particular group of people is unworthy or defective. The whole world is counting on America to be herself, and to be there for them when they really need a safe place to go. We have an obligation to consider who we want to be as a people, so we can preserve our country for the future of our own children and the future of the world.

We realize that many of you pay Social Security taxes, for which you may never receive a pension. We realize that many of you do jobs that do not comply with the health and safety standards that apply to most jobs in this country. We are sorry for our own inconsistencies.

Most of us are resolved to do something about it. We want laws people can actually obey. We are resolved to either enforce the laws or change them so they are more realistic. We want you to comply with our laws, and we want employers in our country to do so, as well.

When we say that we believe in the rule of law, we actually mean it. Our people are really bugged by people breaking the law and getting away with it. Remember O.J. Simpson and his lost book deal? O.J. getting away with murder revolts us. The American public, with its respect for law, hooted him out of his book contract and his TV appearance.

When you hear people say they are angry about people being here in violation of our laws, take them seriously. They are not just saying that as a trumped-up excuse to cover for a more sinister motive. A lot of us think it isn’t okay for people to break the law, as their very first act in our country.

At the same time, we realize that our immigration law is difficult to comply with. We are dedicated to making it easier to obey the law. Anybody who came here legally shouldn’t have to wait years to receive a response for a routine request from the Immigration Service.

We know that our unique experiment in self-government depends on the character of our people. Many of our own native-born citizens no longer understand that. They would abolish our sense of self-reliance, our can-do spirit, our ability to cooperate with each other and accomplish great things. We realize that preserving the American dream is complicated. But we mean to do it, and we want you to be part of it.

To be quite honest, we don’t want to see you joining up with the radical anti-Americans. We know they are hovering around you like vultures. They would be delighted to have you as permanent clients. We don’t want that. They are the Party of Death: the party of abortion on demand, the party against the Mount Soledad Cross, the party against religious schools, the party against free enterprise and initiative.

For many of us, the nightmare scenario is that you corrupt our politics with government by street mob, and we corrupt your children with our popular culture of casual sex, anti-religion and MTV. We know that many Latino parents don’t want to lose their children to the cultural swamp of American pop culture. We don’t want that either.

But the great possibility is that we give you the benefits of our open, prosperous economy and our transparent government. You in turn help us restore our work ethic, our family culture and our religiosity.

If you are going to be here, we want you to become Americans. Not just citizens, but Americans in every way.

Give us your hearts.

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is a Senior Research Fellow at the Acton Institute and the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World.

Her website is:

www.jennifer-roback-morse.com