Obama and Immigration: Rewriting History?

Obama and Immigration: Rewriting History?

Posted By Pam Meister On July 2, 2010 @ 12:00 am In Column 2, Culture, History, Homeland Security, Immigration, US News | 55 Comments

This week, while shilling for “comprehensive immigration reform” (aka amnesty for illegal aliens), President Obama cited the famous poem “The New Colossus” ( “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. For one whose intellectual powers are constantly being touted by his followers, it’s interesting to note how little he seems to know about the Statue of Liberty’s history — or, perhaps, how little he cares about twisting that history in order to push his radical progressive agenda.

Obama said in his speech on Thursday [1] that Emma Lazarus wrote the poem and donated it for an auction in order to “help pay for the construction of a new statue.” He went on to say that the funding for the statue was garnered by small donations from people all across America. Unfortunately, he gets it wrong.

The Statue of Liberty [2], commissioned in 1876 and designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, was a gift to America from France in honor of this nation’s centennial. The only cost to Americans was that of the pedestal upon which the statue would be placed, and fundraising for that effort began several years before the statue arrived, in pieces, to be reassembled upon arrival in 1885. In fact, the poem written by Lazarus was forgotten soon after it was donated to the fundraising effort and it wasn’t until 1903, 16 years after her death, that the poem was engraved on a bronze plaque [3] and placed inside the pedestal as a memorial.

Perhaps pointing out the discrepancy about the wording of his speech (“the construction of a new statue” rather than “the construction of the new statue’s pedestal”) seems like nitpicking. But had a Republican president made such an error, innocent or otherwise, he’d have been pilloried in the “mainstream” press as an ill-educated boor. It reminds us of how the MSM ignored [4] Obama’s infamous “57 states” gaffe while on the campaign trail in 2008. Besides, it’s a lot more glamorous to talk about fundraising efforts for the statue itself, not the statue’s base.

It’s also somewhat galling to hear Obama speak of Lazarus’ Jewish heritage, considering his attitude toward Israel [5] — a nation created in the traditional Jewish homeland as a refuge for Jews once again escaping from Europe “to the sounds of gunfire” and seeking refuge to create new lives for themselves.

But here’s the icing on the cake: Obama made the claim [6] that “being an American is not a matter of blood or birth, it’s a matter of faith” and said that “we can’t forget that this process of immigration and eventual inclusion has often been painful. Each new wave of immigrants has generated fear and resentment towards newcomers, particularly in times of economic upheaval.” In other words, those of us who are against illegal aliens breaking our laws by sneaking in through our borders and other ports of entry are a bunch of racists who are looking to deprive these people of their livelihoods.

Ed Morrissey brings up another salient point [7]:

We know what Obama meant in this passage — a similarity to those who have expressed the notion that they were Americans before ever setting foot in the US, thanks to their love of liberty.  However, the people expressing that concept came to the US through legal immigration, and didn’t presume to break our laws in order to express their desire to live in freedom.  They understood that the aspirational concept of being American and the legal status of American citizenship (or even residency) are two completely different things.

Besides, if being an American is a matter of faith, then the religion in question is devotion to the rule of law.  We have created the laws by which we live through representative democracy within a framework set by our Constitution.  Breaking the law to get into the country isn’t an expression of faith; using Obama’s construct, it’s actually heresy.

But as I said recently [8], it’s not about enforcing current law to protect actual Americans — you know, those of us who do not base our citizenship on “faith” alone. It’s about courting a large group of people who, if given amnesty, would constitute a juicy voting bloc just waiting to be snapped up.

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