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Immigrants at Ellis Island.

Emma Lazarus's poem The New Colossus (1883), celebrating the Statue of Liberty, is invoked today by open-borders advocates appealing their case through quotation of merely six words from Lazarus's poem: "Give me your tired, your poor ..."

Ironies abound here. The open-borders people are often the same ones who deny reality to the idea of American greatness or exceptionalism. Yet, Lazarus's poem affirms both. Indeed, the poem scorns other governments' rootedness in class privilege, dismissing their "storied pomp."

Also overlooked is Lazarus's identification of the arrivals' desire "to breathe free." Free from what? Ironically, the very kind of government embraced by the larger vision of the open-borders fanatics: the rule of probing elites interested in controlling every aspect of human life and their haughty disparaging of common people (the "deplorables" of Lazarus's day).

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Another irony can be seen at nearby Ellis Island. These immigrants (seen in the island's vivid displays) went through an arduous process of application, identification, evaluation as to health and work skills, and family connections in the U.S. In other words, a rational, intelligent, and responsible process of entry.

Today's blurring of the concept of the immigrant to apply to anybody coming into the country by whatever means, and support for that confusion, insults Lazarus herself and countless people who entered the U.S. both hopefully and responsibly, forged a specifically American identity and contributed significantly to national life and society.

Richard Terrell, Lincoln

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