Recalling a time when America welcomed immigrants
The words “Give me ... your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” on the Statue of Liberty express our nation’s ideal of welcoming immigrants of all lands and cultures.
They arise from, as Lincoln called it, the “better angels of our nature.” We in Buffalo see this ideal’s practical expression in the daily work at Vive la Casa, the International Institute, Journey’s End, and many of other groups who work selflessly to greet and assist refugees and immigrants to our community.
At the same time, our nation’s history has also witnessed much hatred, discrimination and violence toward immigrants. First it was the Irish, who were despised for their Catholicism and poverty, and later it was the Italians, Poles and Jews, who, it was claimed, brought disease, revolution and crime. On the West Coast, Chinese were by law barred from immigrating to the United States, and during WWII, Japanese Americans were locked away in prison camps for years. Today, the White House wishes to exclude Muslims, and calls Mexicans murderers and rapists.
Our society’s differences, its diversity, has always brought America such vitality and strength.
Immigrants enrich our culture, invent technologies, create new businesses, in short contribute in countless ways to our growth. Immigrants and refugees have played a critical role in revitalizing the Buffalo community, and will continue to do so if we continue to welcome them.
Difference and diversity should not be feared, but rather celebrated and embraced. If we open our hearts and our minds, we will learn about each other and be stronger together.
Let us urge our neighbors and our government to continue welcoming immigrants to our shores and so uphold the ideals of the Statue of Liberty and of Lincoln.