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In the New York Harbor stands a lady with her torch held high, lighting the way for millions who have come to America seeking peace, liberty, freedom to worship, and the opportunity to live, work, and grow here. In the other arm she carries a tablet inscribed with the date of the Declaration of Independence, a symbol of the great sacrifice our forefathers made to establish a country free from tyranny and bonds. They envisioned a nation of people who would govern themselves with intelligence, upright laws, and compassion.
Wave upon wave of immigrants have come to America. The first were the Pilgrims. Unequipped and unprepared for the harsh winters, they would have died if not for the Native Americans who showed them compassion, gave them provisions, and showed them how to grow food here.
In succeeding waves the people came, pulled by the light and hope of liberty. And how were they received? All too often, once the immigrants got themselves established, they forgot their humble roots and rejected the new groups who came after them. For example, the Irish were met with prejudice and treated abominably. They had to fight their way into the mainstream of American life. Many died of starvation and cold right here in the land of plenty because of the hard hearts of their neighbors.
Today another wave of immigrants has come to our shores, this time thousands of children who come from Central and South America. I am not going to comment on the policies and laws that caused this mess. I do ask, what will we do now? First, we need to look deeper and understand why they come here in the first place.
Are we really so blind that we don not understand how good we have it here? Compared to the rest of the world, we are incredibly rich. We live like kings and queens, with every want and need fulfilled. We throw away food every day. We have unparalleled educational opportunities. We have electricity, indoor plumbing, and beautiful homes. We spend millions of dollars on entertainment every week. And do we sit on our thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, ignorant of the misery, poverty, and violence that most of the rest of the world exists in? America stands as a beacon to the nations, a shining hope in a world of darkness. This is the place where people can have the opportunity to make good lives for themselves, where they can truly be free. All they need is a chance.
My answer is, let them come. Let the children come, and welcome them with open arms. Let us be nursing fathers and nursing mothers to them. Let us teach them and love them. These are not terrorists or criminals: these are the children of Lehi, drawn here by something deeper than the call of food, clean water, and the chance to make a living. They can no more ignore the call than wild geese can ignore the need to go north every summer. They must come, and so they do. They leave their homes and families, hoping for a better future. Our reaction to them will in large measure determine what they end up becoming. Will we vilify them and institutionalize them? Will we leave them to wander by themselves, to fall victim to gangs, crime, vice, and drugs, so that anger and retaliation become their watch cry? Or will we gather them in, love them, feed and clothe them, and teach them how to be law-abiding, peaceful, and productive members of society? Let us not forget our own forefathers and what they sacrificed for us. In the words of Emma Lazarus,
“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!”