- - Sunday, August 13, 2017

In “Not everyone can join the American nation” (Web, Aug. 8) Clifford May argues that CNN’s Jim Acosta was wrong to say that Emma Lazarus’ poem, “The New Colossus,” inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, set a U.S. policy of admitting immigrants considered the “wretched refuse” of foreign lands. Mr. May argues on prudential grounds, but there is a historical argument, too.

Edouard de Laboulaye, the “Father of the Statue of Liberty,” was a French politician whose life’s mission was to push for a return to democracy when France was ruled by Emperor Napoleon III. Laboulaye raised money from private French citizens to build a statute titled “Liberty Enlightening the World.” The donors wanted France (and the world) to copy the United States’ limited constitutional government, represented by the “light” of the torch held by the goddess of liberty, Libertas. Neither Laboulaye nor the French donors had any intention of prompting a mass immigration of the “tired and poor” to America. At the 1886 dedication of the statue, President Grover Cleveland said, “a stream of light shall pierce the darkness until liberty shall enlighten the world.”

America should focus on preserving its Constitution against assaults by jihadists, opponents of free speech, and so forth, and should not allow Emma Lazarus to hijack the Statue of Liberty donated by French republicans.



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