“The New Colossus”

Bill Neinast


Frequently, the crocodile tears shed over the treatment of individuals trying to enter this country illegally  are accompanied with Lady Liberty’s words of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

Those throwing these words about obviously do not know their history.  They are from a sonnet or poem written by American poet Emma Lazarus in 1883.  

The poem was written to be used in an auction to raise money to build a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.  Its title is "The New Colossus" and goes like this:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she

With silent lips. ‘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’.”

In 1903, the poem was cast onto a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal's lower level.

Those words were written less than a year after the first immigration wall fell into place.  The  Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers went into effect on May 6 of that year.

Were those Chinese laborers not part of the huddled masses seeking opportunity in a land better than their own?  Would the forerunners of the INS been cheered or jeered if they had used tear gas to try to prevent an unruly mob of Chinese workers trying to jump ship onto a San Francisco beach?

A number of other exclusionary acts followed that first wall until the Immigration Act of 1924.  This law, which took effect on July 1 of that year, required all arriving non-citizens to present a visa when applying for admission to the United States.

Obviously the beacon of freedom for the huddled masses  was already beginning to dim  when poet Lazarus penned her beautiful sonnet in the waning years of the 19th Century.  Now, more than a century later, the beacon is flashing orange.  Or is that red?

The United States has borders.  Like every other nation, it has the right and obligation to proclaim who may cross those borders and the procedure that must be followed when a non citizen desires to enter. 

Any man, woman, or child who enters, or tries to enter, the country without following or complying with the applicable procedures is breaking the law.  Regardless of the excuses given, such as seeking asylum, they are criminals 

We are fully justified in taking whatever measures necessary to enforce the law.  This includes using tear gas to disperse crowds trying to storm across the border en masse.

The outrage sweeping the nation over using tear gas against women and children is ludicrous.  

First, the adult women were voluntarily participating in an action they knew was wrong and they brought their own children into a zone of known danger.

Second, those crying (no pun intended) over the use of tear gas against women and children do not know what they are talking about….

I have been subjected to tear gas several times.  No, not in an unruly mob, but in gas mask training in the Army.  

The gas is not immediately harmful, but you are definitely motivated to get away or protected from it as quickly as possible.  It is an ideal, humane, and safe method for dispersing crowds at borders and elsewhere.

So here’s the perspective.

Let’s quit whining about the treatment of illegal border crossers, regardless of what side of the border they are on.

Instead, let’s make it so difficult to get into the country that there will be no more “caravans” or rock throwing mobs.

An essential, initial step in this direction is appreciation of the fact that a few thousand INS agents in jeeps are not even a minimal barrier.    The only effective barrier is a physical structure of metal or stone.

A wall or fence will not stop all illegal entry of humans and drugs into our Land Of The Free, but it would make the current super highway into a country dirt road.

Sure wish Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer could see it that way.



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