Keeping the Statue of Liberty Honest

Keeping the Statue of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Liberty Honest<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
J. Michael Sharman
Let me get this out of the way right here at the beginning: I don't want the Statue of Liberty to be a lying lady.
            Her full name is "Liberty Enlightening the World" and the bronze plaque which was bolted to her interior wall described her as the "Mother of Exiles".
            Her plaque goes on to say that, "she cries with silent lips, 'Give me your tired your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'"[1]
Teodoro Escobar is a poor man from El Salvador yearning to be free to earn a decent wage. Border Patrol agents caught him sneaking into the U.S. through Mexico. He was arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, questioned, and, under our current "catch and release" program, he was given a summons telling him to appear in an immigration court.
Three hours later, Teodoro was on a bus to Houston clutching the "Notice to Appear" document which would allow him to pass through the immigration checkpoints. He told a reporter he just wanted to find work as soon as possible[2]
            Teodoro is the type of person that most Americans would want to find a way to help. But Julie Meyers, assistant secretary for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), reminds us not all immigrants are that benign, "America's welcome does not extend to immigrants who come here to commit crimes."[3]
            Immigration officials estimate that the nation's jails and prisons book about 630,000 illegal immigrants on criminal charges each year.[4]
During a two week "Operation Return to Sender" that began May 26, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 2,179 illegal immigrants. Of those, 146 had prior convictions for sexual offenses against children; 367 were known gang members; and 640 were already under a deportation order.[5]
"Operation Predator" is another ICE initiative[6] which arrested more than 7,500 sexual predators from July 2003 to April 2006. Of those, 85% were foreign nationals from over 100 nations, divided fairly evenly between legal and illegal immigrants.[7]
"If more Americans knew how the system works, they'd be frustrated," said Tony Rouco, "We all are" He ought to know, he's a supervisory special agent for ICE. In the Colorado region where he serves, 4,000 immigration fugitives failed to show up in immigration court or vanished before they could be deported. [8]
            ICE's 35 fugitive teams across the country have a job which is overwhelming: There are more than 500,000 immigrants in the U.S. who have been ordered deported by judges but who either have avoided the order or come back in the U.S. after a deportation.[9]
The problem brought by immigrants is nothing new. Americans have always debated immigration policy for the entire history of our nation.
            George Percy, one of the men who arrived at Jamestown in 1607, noted that, "the savages murmured at our planting in the country." But Chief Powatan quieted down the other Native Americans by saying, "Why should you be offended with them as long as they hurt you not, nor take anything away by force? They take but a little waste ground which doth you nor any of us any good."[10]
            That might have been a seriously bad miscalculation for Chief Powatan, but it is actually a good immigration policy to have. If an immigrant is a criminal, we need to have systems in place to restrain them before they get through our borders and rapidly evict them if they commit crimes after they are here. But, following Chief Powatan's example, as long as they don't hurt us, or take anything by force, let's live up to words of the Statue of Liberty and tell folks like Teodoro Escobar, "You've found a home. Welcome to America."

[1] Lazarus, Emma, "The New Colossus",

[2] "Illegal immigrants make shambles of Border Patrol Policy", Chicago Tribune, June 8, 2006.

[6] "Fact Sheet: Operation Predator",


[8] "Immigration agency swamped with non-criminal detainees", Summit Daily News, AP, June 11, 2006

[9] "Operation Return to Sender nabs illegal immigrants", Seattle Times, AP, June 15, 2006.

[10] Jamestown Narratives: Eyewitness Accounts of the Virginia Colony, Edited by Edward Wright Haile,  p. 97

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