We spent most of the past week in New York City. I visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for the first time. Although the boat ride out there was extremely cold at this time of year, I was in awe of the level of commitment that the immigrants had. They were willing to carry a small amount of wordly possessions and establish a new, and hopefully better, life in the US. The country was welcoming, and only 2% of those who passed through Ellis Island were turned away.
I think that the spirit of hard work shown by these people hasn't changed with today's immigrants. They put up with lifestyles and working conditions that most of us wouldn't tolerate. The country is much less welcoming, with many fewer legal paths to US residency and citizenship.
What would happen if we set up new Ellis Island-like facilities at our borders, screened everyone, and took the healthy, non-criminal immigrants who had a modest amount of means ($25 in 1912, the equivalent of $522 today)? By screening everyone, we could deal with our terrorist concerns. We could more effectively collect taxes from these workers. And, we could dedicate more resources to things other than chasing illegal immigrants.
The words of “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus on the pedestal of the statue don't reflect today's view of immigration:
“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!”
I remember being proud of these words when I learned them in elementary school. Could we continue to productively absorb large numbers of immigrants now as we did in the past?