Of course, realistically the Statue of Liberty is not a law. So the words we present to the world, or at least Atlanticward from New York, mean buggerall for official American policy. If Congress were to decide to do anything to affect immigration, then that might be the new law of our land. Whether we like it or not.
Which leads us to the "ah buts".
We are, as a nation, too quick to paint with a wide brush. Irish, Italians, Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Japanese, Hispanics, Gays, and on and on. As if one label applied to thousands or millions truly describes a race, an ethnic group, a religion, a geography, any class of people.
And we, as a people, are too easily led into arguing in those terms. I'm Puerto Rican, not Mexican. I'm trans, not gay. I'm peaceful, not jihadist. There's nothing wrong with having an identity, an affiliation, a membership. It's even something to celebrate. But not as a weapon.
xenophobia (n) intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries. Or strange. Alien.
That word alien -- it packs so much, including fear and anger, in those five letters. I have a better word for those who would be immigrants, whether legal or not. People.
And at the heart of the latest flap? Children.
What parent wouldn't work to help their children? To get out of poverty, drugs, gangs, corruption -- any number of things that were not brought on by the parents and that none of us, by ourselves, would be easily able to stave off.
I don't have answers. But words have meanings. They can describe, they can hurt, they can help.
I believe in a nation that can stand by the words posted on its shores for a hundred years. Words my grandparents passed...
"Give me your tired, your poor,Dr. Phil
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!"