The Golden Door in Terms of Immigration

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?



Works Cited

Noble, Breana. “Path to Citizenship: 6 Steps to Becoming a Naturalized American.” Newsmax, Newsmax Inc. Newsmax Inc., 2 Aug. 2015,


Gebert, Konstanty. “Opinion // Declaring the Rights of Migrants.” Moment Magazine – The Next 5,000 Years of Conversation Begin Here, Moment Magazine, 12 Apr. 2017,


Lazarus, Emma. “The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 2002,



3 thoughts on “The Golden Door in Terms of Immigration

  1. Aliya,

    I find your perspective to be very intriguing and wonder how it would compare to someone born in the United States.

    Currently, the irony between established ideals and reality you address is ever-more present in this country. I think the statement in the gif with former President Obama also directly contradicts the way we address immigration. This consensus on immigration is not necessarily practiced in policy.

    Your description of the Statue of Liberty as a mask seems to relate to many people’s clouded views on what it truly means to enter this country and how in order to remove that mask, we need to understand that this nation is defined by immigrants

    Additionally, I would like to respectfully challenge some of the ideas you are proposing. I believe that at the time in history this was written, the terms “homeless” and “tempest-tossed” were not meant to be an insult, but rather a figurative way to describe immigrants’ treacherous journey to America. Lazarus seems to be speaking in a voice of understanding, demonstrating that the people already in this country can relate to the hardships people have endured to reach this point and they are welcome here, regardless of physical state. I do think the wording of this poem speaks directly to the time period in which it was composed, however I see how it can morph and be interpreted in new ways as people struggle to define immigration and laws concerning the process.

    • I appreciate your interpretation of the poem, and I thank you for your comment. However, my perspective is from a modern point of view and as such, I believe that in the 21st century the terms “homeless” and “temptst-tost” are offensive. My interpretation expresses these sentiments.

  2. Aliyah, I agree fully with the points you’ve raised. To the point about the poem being a contradiction, i believe it models after the United States. TheUnited States holds itself as the defenders of democracy but they have failed to define and establish it at home Thus, how knowledge does it make one if they don’t have it at home. And my question to you is: what do you think the poem would be like in this current political climate? what continuities, if any, would it have?

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