As a Pakistani immigrant, I can attest to the idea that I once believed America was a country worthy of praise for its honorable immigration policies but with current presidential rhetoric and the uproar of public opinion to restrict immigration policies, I no longer believe that America is worthy of this praise. After reading Breana Noble’s explanation of how to become an American citizen and Konstanty Gebert’s article on immigration I realize that these personal beliefs can be rooted in factual information. The poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus expands on the idea’s portrayed throughout Gebert’s and Noble’s article. The poem articulates the irony of the United States reputation for the acceptance of immigrants versus the reality of its immigration policies.
This idea is imbedded in the following lines: “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door (13-14).” Immigrants are being referred to as “homeless” and “tempest-tost”which in incredibly concerning but what is fascinating is the idea of the “golden door.” The door is a representation of legal immigration into the United States but the color compares it to the golden gates of heaven. Therefore, legal immigration into the United States is just as difficult to attain as entry into heaven.
But what it does not portray is the tedious process immigrants go through. They must receive approval for permanent residency (three or five years) and then must be approved for citizenship (Noble). Legal immigration as a golden/heavenly concept is a plausible comparison since recently, immigrants have been seeking citizenship for economic prosperity rather than refuge or asylum. The conflict over which immigrant should be granted citizenship is becoming increasingly difficult to parse through (Gebert). In relation to the entirety of the poem, this metaphor points out that America is not as welcoming to incoming immigrants as it may appear to be and that the Statue of Liberty masks the reality that America is trying to restrict many individuals from citizenship. I see the poem as a contradiction within itself. On the one hand, it portrays the Statue of Liberty as a sign of “world-wide welcome” yet the immigration policies are working to decrease the number of immigrants seeking economic prosperity and even those seeking refuge (Gebert). How can the United States retain the reputation that it is welcoming of all races and religions if it continues to limit who is and is not suitable for citizenship?
Noble, Breana. “Path to Citizenship: 6 Steps to Becoming a Naturalized American.” Newsmax, Newsmax Inc. Newsmax Inc., 2 Aug. 2015, www.newsmax.com/fastfeatures/path-to-citizenship-naturalization/2015/08/02/id/665071/.
Gebert, Konstanty. “Opinion // Declaring the Rights of Migrants.” Moment Magazine – The Next 5,000 Years of Conversation Begin Here, Moment Magazine, 12 Apr. 2017, www.momentmag.com/opinion-declaring-rights-migrants/.
Lazarus, Emma. “The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 2002, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46550/the-new-colossus.