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Monday, August 7, 2017

Making America Racist again

Erasing the message of the Statue of Liberty

No automatic alt text available."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!"

...or not. Today a closed door is the message coming out of the White House from President Trump and some Congressional allies. 

They can dress it up as much as they want, but it harkens back to some of the uglier moments of our republic.

There was a time when school children would learn the words of Emma Lazarus emblazoned on the Statue of Liberty without a cloud of irony. 

For all the debate and demonization around illegal immigration - and it should be noted that that issue is a complicated one - what was largely uncontroversial was legal immigration.

That hasn't always been the case. 

From the Know Nothing Party who railed against Catholics "ruining the real America" in the mid-19th century, to the anti-semitism, anti-Asian, and all the other anti feelings after the great waves of immigration over the 19th and early 20th century, several times we have seen bigotry undermine America's destiny as a land of open opportunity.

Now of course we cannot be home to everyone, but we can be as humane as possible. We also can recognize how much immigrants have shaped our culture, powered our economy, and sparked our scientific and technical innovations.

As President Trump sees a country increasingly unified against his divisive agenda, he is reaching for one of the oldest tools in the American political playbook. 

Stir division. Pit people against each other. Blame others for your own problems. 

Like with his attacks on transgender soldiers, I think the blowback here will be strong. 

I suspect Mr. Trump will couch this action by saying he is fighting for the rights of blue-collar America (which in his incarnation is mostly white). He may get some traction. 

We do need an open and honest debate over immigration in America, but do we really want to begin that debate with a cynical gambit such as this?