My Turn: On immigration, Democrats ignore U.S. history

  • Emma Lazarus’ 1883 poem “The New Colossus,” is shown on a replica of the plaque at the Statue of Liberty Museum in New York. The original plaque containing the famous poem is located in the statue’s pedestal. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 8/26/2019 8:00:13 AM

It has become abundantly clear that when the Democrats call a Republican a racist, they pull that card to distract from the policies that relate to a particular situation.

A classic example of this is the latest charge by presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who insinuated that the Trump administration wanted only white people coming into our country when the administration said that the people the Statue of Liberty represented were from Europe. The administration also said that people who need public assistance should not be allowed into our country.

This policy is consistent with the 1882 legislation that said that people who require public assistance can be denied admission to this country, the “public charge rule.” Does anybody, other than the president, care about the people who are here legally who need public assistance?

The administration commented on the fact that the Statue of Liberty and the poem inscribed on the statue referenced Europeans. O’Rourke took that comment to mean that the Trump administration wanted only white people. There goes the race card.

What the president is concerned about, and all of the Democratic candidates should also be concerned about, is protecting the people who are in this country legally and are dependent on public-assistance programs.

If we continue to burden our welfare system with illegal aliens, we endanger protecting the benefits of those who are here legally and in need of those services.

If you Google President Clinton’s 1995 State of the Union speech, there is a two-minute clip related to illegal aliens coming across our southern border. The president actually called these people “illegal aliens.” And when he said that we need to make sure these illegal aliens do not get on our welfare rolls, he got a standing ovation from Congress.

This is how far the Democratic leaders of today have gone off the rails of what was always bipartisan support to protect our southern border and protect the welfare of people who are here legally.

The Democrats seemed to have ignored that bipartisan reality by using the race card to distract from what President Trump is trying to do to protect our borders and the people on welfare who are legally entitled to those benefits.

O’Rourke and the other Democratic candidates, who raised their hand in the affirmative in the first debate when asked if the undocumented immigrants should be on our welfare rolls, need to understand the history of our country when it came to addressing the immigration issue.

Many “My Turn” columns have been published in the Monitor suggesting that we reflect on history as it relates to our current issues. I agree. So let’s review the history of immigration policy in America.

In 1875, California passed the Page Act restricting Chinese immigrants from coming into our country because the state of California wanted to protect the jobs and wages of it citizens at that time.

In 1882, the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act making the Page Act national policy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should reflect on the laws that her state enacted to defend the working people of California. Also, Pelosi ignores the fact that the southern border of California has a wall that labor leader Cesar Chavez fought for to protect the farm workers in California.

As it relates to the Statue of Liberty controversy, the 1880s was the beginning of the growing Industrial Revolution in America. We were desperately in need of workers to operate our factories, which were booming. The economies of Europe were not growing, similar to the European economies of today, so the United States provided an economy that would give European workers a better life.

What the American economy needed then was a worker who had the skill set to work in our factories. The skill set meant a person with a strong back and a good work ethic. These are the people America attracted, and they came from Europe.

Today our high-tech economy needs trade skills, advanced manufacturing skills and a strong work ethic. So one can see that U.S. immigration rules have historically been aimed at attracting immigrants who are needed for our economy and protecting the workers who are here legally.

Emma Lazarus, the poet who wrote the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, expressed her feelings about the symbolism of the statue. It was not the policy of the United States government.

Lazarus was asked to write a poem that could be used as a fundraiser to build the foundation of the statue. It was written in 1883, and the statue was dedicated in 1886. The movement to have her poem bronzed at the base of the statue did not happen until 1903.

So, when a politician plays the race card when he or she should be addressing important policies, they are crying wolf. This does a great disservice to all of us who oppose racism.

We have a president who implemented an economic policy that has given more African and Latino Americans full time, good paying jobs than ever before.

When a politician uses the race card instead of addressing the policy issues that caused the card to be used, that politician is the racist.

(Joseph Mendola lives in Warner.)

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