Count me among those tired. I am really tired of hearing people misuse the Statue of Liberty to promote an open border philosophy.
We are hearing politicians and media personalities talking about how President Donald Trump’s immigration policy order is a violation of American values. Many of them have used the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop or as an illustration of those values. They are implying, or in some cases actually stating that the Statue of Liberty has always stood for the open arms of America to those who wish to come here.
The Statue of Liberty has absolutely nothing to do with immigration. The statue was a gift to the United States from France on the occasion of the American Centennial in 1876. The arrival of the statue was actually ten years late in 1886. The Sculptor, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, designed the statue to illustrate the Goddess of Liberty. She holds a torch to light the way of liberty, and a book symbolizing the law that guides the principles of freedom. The inscription on the book is a date, July 4, 1776. There is a broken chain at the feet of the statue symbolizing American’s break with the tyranny of the British Empire.
The poem so often associated with the statue was written by Emma Lazarus. The poem was donated to a society raising money to construct the pedestal for the statue in 1883. Ms. Lazarus first refused to write the poem, but a friend encouraged her to write a poem declaring the statue a welcoming spirit for those coming into New York Harbor. The poem The New Colossus became so popular that it was chosen to be displayed on a bronze plaque in the entry room to the statue at the base of the pedestal, which was not completed and dedicated until 1903.
The sonnet contrasts the Greek statue of Colossus astride two land masses symbolizing government power with Lady Liberty lifting the torch of freedom to guide immigrants to a new world of freedom and opportunity.
The idea that the statue is a beacon to immigrants was instigated by the poem, not the statue itself. The Statue of Liberty is about the founding spirit of the American Republic. That spirit founded a nation ruled by laws, not men. That nation declared from its very inception that the number one duty of government was to protect the people of this nation from invasion and attack by establishing secure borders.
If one wishes to invoke the Statue of Liberty with regard to the ongoing furor around President Trump’s immigration policy, they should at least be honest enough to admit that the principles of Liberty that the statue personifies are far closer to the Trump position of secure borders than it is the idea of welcoming without question anyone who comes to our country legally or illegally.