Guest Author: Svetlana Markowicz
Etched on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, Emma Lazarus’ words “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-tossed,” resonate with most Americans. We are, after all, an immigrant nation. A majority of Americans only have to look back two or three generations to find a loved one that left their livelihoods behind to escape persecution or pursue greater opportunities, or as the forefathers so eloquently put it: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
For many years I firmly believed that this was what made the United States great.
I was wrong. With each day passing, we show the world we are a hypocritical nation that can talk the talk, but isn’t willing to walk the walk. People are crossing our borders and staying illegally instead of apply for citizenship and refugees fleeing war-torn countries are facing endless application ceilings to prove they are not a threat to the United States. Why? Are the simply not patient enough? Should we be afraid of the people applying? Or, are these just excuses meant to retain the Anglo-Saxon/Christian majority of the past? Do we project the image of acceptance while use the law to enforce our true intentions?
The first immigration procedure enacted in the United States, the Naturalization Act of 1790, placed no restrictions on immigration. However, the openness wasn’t without one glaringly restrictive measure, that non-whites were not permitted to gain citizenship. Essentially, the very first immigration laws in the United States showed an obvious desire to keep certain individuals out of the American dream. Future legislations only acted to make more blatant this goal. The Page Act of 1875 prohibited entry of immigrants deemed “undesirable,” the National Origins Formula of 1924 classified immigrants coming from “quota” and “non-quota” nations (non-quota being nations contiguous to the United States), and the INA Amendments of 1965 set a quota for Western/Eastern Hemisphere immigration. Lastly, the 2002 Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act and 2005 REAL ID Act increased border control, curtailed habeas corpus relief, created more restrictions on political asylum, and require that foreign nationals carry ID’s.
In essence, we are creating a legal, judicial, and physical wall that prevents certain immigrants from coming in and suffocates those already here, out. A nation of immigrants with policies meant to hinder the immigration of those most in need. Ironic. Sad. Not the American dream- but a nightmare with icing on top.