This archived article was written by: Alex Holt
In 1883, a 34-year-old poet named Emma Lazarus wrote a poem to raise money for the pedestal of a statue that would eventually serve as a beacon of freedom, opportunity, compassion and inclusiveness across the world.
That statue was the Statue of Liberty, which sits in the harbor of a city that many call the “Gateway to North America.” Millions of people would pass the statue on their way to Ellis Island to become citizens including names like Kwame Nkrumah who would eventually become the first President of Ghana, Maria von Trapp and her family who would be immortalized in the timeless classic The Sound of Music, the famous comedian and actor Bob Hope and legendary composer Irving Berlin.
They came to the United States on a promise and that promise would be made again and again to millions more seeking to find a better life in the land of opportunity. That promise is as follows:
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek flame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty women with a torch, whose flame is 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!””
This is the New Colossus, a poem inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and is the same poem Lazarus wrote long ago. It offers America as a refuge to anyone including the poor, the oppressed and the rejected, no matter where they hail from.
While the U.S. has struggled to keep that promise through the years, now 134 years later, the U.S. finally outright broke that promise when President Donald Trump signed an executive order indefinitely barring Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., as well as all other refugees for 120 days and suspending entry for anyone from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days.
Many students, visa-holders, U.S. permanent residents and tourists of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen arriving into the U.S. since the order was signed on the 27th, are facing detainment and deportation.
It is a heartbreaking struggle for these people and is causing incredible distress. This is targeted discrimination by the government against a religion solely based on hysteria and fear. It is wrong and goes against the values America claims to have.
Because of this order and the discrimination it perpetuates, a massive uproar of Americans are organizing protests across the nation and have been gaining support from people like President Barrack Obama. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Iraqi Prime Minister Nadhim Zahawi, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates (who was recently fired by Trump by standing up to him regarding the order) all have condemned Trump’s ban on Muslims. Even the federal courts have ruled against the ban calling it both unconstitutional and un-American.
However, the Trump Administration is ignoring the courts and the protests and is continuing to detain and deport people. This is a crisis and could be the end of American values and tell the world that the land of opportunity no longer exists and been replaced by a nation of hatred and fear and that the struggles and stories of immigrants will not be heard.
We cannot allow that idea to unfold as we are a nation founded, built and made of immigrants. They have been America’s most enthusiastic trailblazers, leading the nation’s pioneers forward. They have fought for freedom and liberty throughout the world. They represent the best and brightest of us all. Their struggles are our struggles and their stories need to be heard.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We are all of us children of Earth. Grant us that simple knowledge. If our brothers are oppressed, then we are oppressed. If they hunger, we hunger. If their freedom is taken away, our taken away, our freedom is not secure. Grant us a common faith, that man shall know bread and peace. That he shall know justice and righteousness, freedom and security, and equal chance to do his best, not only in our own lands, but throughout the world and in that faith, let us march, march toward the clean world our hands can make. Amen.”
If the New Colossus is the promise of America, then Roosevelt’s Flag Day speech is the reasoning behind that promise.
We must remember that an attack on one of our liberties is an attack on all of them. Everyone on Earth, no matter their religion or nationality, is entitled to equality and the same freedoms. We must stand up to tyrants like Trump who could use this order like a gateway to further discriminate and oppress people across the globe.
We must rise up against Trump, united in the goal of stopping oppression and discrimination that he will force open us. It is our duty to see that America’s promise is carried out to the people of the world so that anyone seeking a better life can obtain it. The fight will be long and hard, but it is possible, and echoing the words of President Obama “Yes, we can!” and we shall.
USU President Noelle E. Cockett recently sent out this message on Jan. 30 in response to Trump’s executive order:
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
We at Utah State University care deeply about our international students, faculty, and staff. We are committed to promoting diversity and inclusiveness on our campuses. The talent, perspective, and culture of our international students, faculty, and staff strengthen and enrich our teaching, research, and outreach programs. We will not tolerate discrimination and harassment in the USU academic environment and workplace.
We are deeply concerned about the members of our university community who may be impacted by the recent executive order suspending the issuance of visas and other immigration benefits to nationals of seven countries for 90 days. We recommend foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen not travel outside of the United States. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates to our community.
Students, visiting scholars, faculty, and staff with visa and international travel questions should schedule an appointment with an immigration advisor in the Office of Global Engagement by calling 435-797-1124 or emailing [email protected]. Counselors, advisors, and staff in the Division of Student Affairs (studentaffairs.usu.edu/) and across the USU system (usueastern.edu/current-students/index) are available to assist students.