Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor...?

Bill Neinast

Telephone lines, cell towers, and satellites are not necessary for spreading fact or propaganda.  I learned this 60 years ago.

In 1956, I was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.  One day, a deserter who had been on the wanted list for about 25 years was captured along the Rio Grande and brought to Fort Sam for court-martial.

His story in broken English was that he had reported for a draft physical in 1941 or ’42.  Upon completion of the physical, he was told to go home.  He had no idea he was in the Army and went home as he was told.

An inquiry revealed that, at the time in question, inductees who passed their physical exam were given the oath of enlistment immediately, told they were in the Army, and told that they could return home for about ten days to wind up any necessary business.  They were to report back to the induction station on a certain date.  (The procedure was later modified to have all the inductees present and fit to take the oath in mass, then take one step forward and acknowledge that they were in the Army.  Then they were allowed to return home for a few days as before.)

Because of this soldier’s limited ability with the English language, it was decided that he did not realize that he had been inducted and was expected back.  Accordingly, he was given the benefit of the doubt, given a general discharge, and allowed to return home.  

Within several days of his release, a steady stream of “deserters” with the same story began coming home to Texas.  

One of those returning for his general discharge, however, did not fit the mold.  He had returned to duty after his home leave, completed basic training, and gone AWOL from an embarkation port in New York where he was supposed to board a boat headed for combat.

Instead of a general discharge, he was court-martialed and sentenced to a dishonorable discharge and confinement at Fort Leavenworth.

Reports of this court-martial spread along the border as quickly as the word about forgiveness and general discharges and the flood of “deserters” seeking a clean bill dried up as fast as it had started.

The same play is now on stage with a different cast of characters.  The players this time are undocumented immigrants seeking public assistance.

I have some personal knowledge of the current cast of characters also.  Many of them are young Hispanic females seeking Medicaid or other assistance for their recent pregnancies and birthing.  

I have been told that most of these new mothers are from South America, cannot read or write English or Spanish, and can barely put their signatures on the required documents.  They frankly admit that they are here because the common word back home is to go north and get free government aid.

This scenario has become so prevalent that this pithy statement is now making the Email rounds: “They had to get a translator in at the benefits office today.  Somebody came in speaking English.” 

Seriously, any thoughts about what to do with this horde of immigrants living on the dole have to consider these words from the base of the Statute of Liberty:

“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 to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

So here’s the perspective.

To some Americans, the Statue of Liberty invitation is our national credo. Others say it is our national curse.

Regardless of the view, the question has to be asked, how long can the land of the free continue to support the flood of immigrants on welfare of various types?

That is a nice question to leave under Christmas trees.  Maybe Santa will bring some answers next week. 


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