Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Liberty

Back when we were planning what we wanted to do and see in New York, we made a list of things we did not want to miss. The Statue of Liberty was on that list. Ellis Island was not. I was extremely interested in seeing this symbol of our country. However, I figured we could skip Ellis Island if we didn't have enough time, and I wouldn't be missing much. I could not have been more wrong!

The statue really is impressive, and I was glad to see it. But I was done in about 10 minutes. We weren't able to get tickets into the pedestal/museum or the even more exclusive tickets to the top of the crown. So, we walked around the wide area at the base of the statue and took a lot of pictures. That was it. Since we had plenty of time we figured we'd spend it at Ellis Island. That turned out to be a moving and deeply informative experience.
This is the great hall at Ellis Island through which every immigrant passed. I could imagine the room full of benches and tired people. It took hours to be processed. For some, those hours stretched to days, weeks, or months if there were problems with their information. This was the only place where we purchased an audio tour and I was so glad we did. I learned so much about the history of this place and the people who passed through here. I had so many conflicting emotions. I thought our country, for the most part, was really trying to be fair and responsible with the masses of people flooding in, but there was some injustice to it as well. I found that I was quite moved by the plight of the immigrant. It would have been even more emotional if I had some ancestors that had gone through those halls, but I was unaware of any.
By the way, when did we stop making such intricate and beautiful ceilings?

After visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, I couldn't help but be struck by the conflicting message our country sends. On one side we have a symbol of opportunity that says,
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!"

Yet, we also scream a message that immigrants are not welcome here. That message is especially loud here in Texas where instead of a beacon of light, we propose a wall at the border. So which is it? Was the welcoming message a limited time offer that has expired along the way at some point? Do we think our country is full now, unable to support anyone else? Does the attitude of Americans toward immigration differ according to region?

I don't have the answers, but this experience definitely made me think.

6 comments:

Roger said...

As for the ceilings, we stopped making those when we started listening to German architects in the 1930s and the Bahaus or Modern school of architecture. Glass boxes became popular. This is why Fair Park is so interesting with the Art Deco buildings. Art Deco was the last major style before buildings began to parachute in from the sky as large glass boxes.

And I have to take issue with your message about immigrants not being welcome here. That's not what anyone is saying. What we're saying is not "Go away," but "Obey our laws." Yes, for the immigrants that didn't, it boils down to "Go away," but for those that did, it amounts to "Welcome."

BECKY said...

you don't think that legal, law-abiding mexican immigrants get even the tiniest itty-bitty feeling of "you are not welcome here"?

And are our immigration laws we expect them to follow really the best they can be? It seems there are some major issues that need examining and perhaps change. There were quite a few things done at Ellis Island that make us gasp today at the indignity. We should be open to evolving our practices.

belinda said...

Becky, i totally agree - it poses some very interesting questions. it would our immigration system is broken. IMO it seems we've zeroed in on only the Mexican immigrants. and the process has been costly and lengthy. reminds me of the bank charging such huge fees for a bad check. obviously, there wasn't money to cover the check written by mistake but now they're taking big bucks on top of it?? as Fran Fine on The Nanny said, "my family landed on Ellis Island and now we don't know who the heck we are." i apologize for rambling - - the picture just isn't as clear for me when there are actual faces involved.

Roger said...

Legal immigrants shouldn’t get a feeling of not being wanted here. It doesn’t help to lump all immigrants together like you did in the original post. When legal and illegal immigrants are conflated, it’s easier to get the impression that all the immigrants are the same. They’re not.

I want people to obey the law. Now, you bring up that perhaps the laws should be changed. Yes, that’s a good idea. Perhaps there should be a guest worker program for migrant farmers or something like that. The problem is, right now, we have people here that we don’t know are here. This situation has to be fixed before we let more temporary workers in. While it hasn’t been exploited for terrorism, it is a security problem.

The last time there was a push for amnesty (in 1986), the law had provisions for border security to be enhanced. The amnesty was granted, but the security provisions weren’t implemented. This is what people who want border security are worried about in the latest proposals that have been floated the last few years—that there will be a push for legalization but without the effort to stop it from being a problem again.

Like I said at first, nobody who plays by the rules should feel intimidated by people who want illegal immigrants found and deported. I want everyone here to be here the right way, not by sneaking across the border.

BECKY said...

i think we like to hide behind the "i want everyone to obey the laws and as long as they do that i'm okay with it" stance without thinking about who the people are, where they are coming from, why they would not choose to or be able to obey the laws, or how the laws need to be adjusted on our end. that is all i am trying to bring up in my original post. i think that almost without knowing it, many americans give off a "you are not welcome here" vibe in the way they speak or act about immigration, many times i don't even think it's a conscious decision, just a vibe that exists many times because of ignorance. i'm not even delving into national security right now. i'm just thinking about the general attitude toward immigration and how i perceive it.

belinda said...

Becky, thank you for your insight and having the courage to speak up. i totally agree.